Florida Supreme Court Sets Limits for Workers’ Compensation Cases
Recently, the Florida Supreme Court laid down a very important ruling regarding workers’ compensation cases. Florida’s highest court ruled that under the workers’ compensation laws, workers are barred from seeking additional benefits in civil court beyond what they receive from their workers’ compensation claim. The court stated that the decision reinforces the concept that workers’ compensation is considered the exclusive remedy for workers who are injured in the state.
This decision arises from the case Morales v. Zenith, which was based on a workplace accident that had resulted in a fatality. The victim, Santana Morales, was injured and ultimately died while worked at his job. At the time of the accident, Morales was employed by Lawns Nursery and Irrigation Designs, Inc. After his death, Morales’ wife settled a workers’ compensation claim with Zenith Insurance, Lawns Nursery and Irrigation Designs’ insurer. She then pursued a separate civil claim against Zenith Insurance, which was also the liability carrier for Lawns Nursery and Irrigation design. In the civil suit, Morales’ claimed that her husband’s death was due to negligence on the part of Lawns. Morales’ was initially awarded a $9.25 million judgment in the civil matter. Zenith Insurance appealed the case, which ultimately lead to the Florida State Supreme Court’s decision in the favor of the insurance company.
The Supreme Court Decision
The Florida Supreme Court’s decision was written by Justice Judge Ricky Polston. In the opinion, the court stated that they clearly sided with the fact that what is received from a workers’ compensation claim is the exclusive remedy under Florida law. The court stated “In this case, the estate did not have the right to bring a tort action against Lawns. Rather, because the estate alleged that Lawns’ negligence caused Morales death, its exclusive remedy was under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law.”
The court further stated that another fact that supported the court’s decision was due to the fact that Morales’ widow had already accepted a settlement and that part of the settlement contained an agreement that would bar her from pursuing any other tort claims. According to the Florida statute, any settlement agreement under the workers’ compensation law must also contain a release that states it constitutes an election of remedies by the injured parties.
What Does This Mean?
While many employers and insurance carriers throughout the state are very happy with this decision, it is likely that this is just the beginning a long battle on whether workers’ compensation should be considered an exclusive remedy. Currently, there are several cases that are pending before Florida’s courts that are challenging not only workers’ compensation as an exclusive remedy, but also the constitutionality of the entire system.
While many do not agree with the workers’ compensation program and the idea of exclusive remedy, supporters argue that the no-fault agreement that created the idea of exclusive remedy also protects injured workers and that without it, a person could wait years without any sort of benefit or support while they are waiting for their civil case to make it through the court system.
Contact Us for Help with Your Claim
If you were injured due to the negligence of another, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney. The court system is a very complicated process that is best navigated with the help of a professional. Call the Fort Lauderdale attorneys at Boone & Davis today and let us represent you in your case.