- Florida Appellate Court Overturns JCC’s Order Denying Stipulation Paying Injured Employee’s Costs
Florida Appellate Court Overturns JCC’s Order Denying Stipulation Paying Injured Employee’s Costs
In Gobel v. American Airlines, a Florida employee filed a claim for benefits after suffering injuries while on the job, and the claim was eventually granted. Next, the parties submitted a joint stipulation to the Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”) overseeing the claim, regarding the payment of legal fees and costs. Pursuant to the stipulation, the employer agreed to pay the injured worker $200 towards legal costs. Such a stipulation is referred to as a request for stipulated costs.
The JCC rejected the parties’ agreement and denied issuing an order approving the stipulated agreement. In reaching this conclusion, the JCC determined that it was not clear whether the payment was meant to cover actual legal costs or to compensate the worker for legal fees. The parties did not provide any documentation explaining the purpose of the payment in their stipulation.
The worker contested the JCC’s denial of the stipulation, stating that Florida Administrative Code Rule 60Q-6.123(5) does not require documentation for stipulations governing any amount under $250. The judge rejected this argument, stating that the rule was invalid.
On appeal to the First District Court of Appeal, the appellate court concluded that both the JCC and the employee interpreted Rule 60Q-6.123(5) incorrectly. Instead, the court reasoned that the rule applied only to stipulations entered pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 440.20(11). This section applied to settlements and stipulations in which the employee will cover legal fees out of a lump sum settlement offer that resolves all claims in the dispute. The section did not apply to the case at hand because the employer had agreed to cover the injured worker’s costs independently.
The appellate court did conclude, however, that another Rule of the Florida Administrative Code applied to the case at hand: Rule 60Q-6.124(2). This rule permits the parties to agree to a legal fees and costs payment without submitting any documents in support or evidence justifying the payment. According to the rule, this type of stipulation is subject to traditional contract law and not within the special ambit of the rules applicable to the parties’ case.
Since Rule 60Q-6.123(5) was not applicable to the case at hand, the appellate court concluded that the JCC’s reason for rejecting the stipulation, which was the lack of supporting evidence, was not valid. Therefore, the appellate court reversed the JCC’s order and remanded the case.
If you have suffered injuries while on the job, you may be entitled to compensation. The workers’ compensation benefits system is designed to ensure that employees receive proper compensation and medical care when they suffer injuries while at work. This system can be incredibly complicated and daunting, especially when you are dealing with severe injuries and worrying over how you will continue to provide for your family. At The Hoffman Firm, we have helped many South Florida workers file a workers’ compensation claim and seek the benefits award that they deserve. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about the options and remedies available to you. Call us now at (800) 223-1866 or contact us online to set up your appointment.
Evan A. Hoffman
Mr. Hoffman’s philosophy is "our knowledge and experience is your best defense." He has been a featured author on criminal law issues such as driving under the influence, domestic violence and illegal searches.Read More