Florida Workers Groups Ask State Supreme Court to Hear Workers’ Compensation Constitutionality Case–AM Best Quotes Donovan Brown

Jul 15, 2015

Florida Insurance Lobbyist G. Donovan Brown of Colodny Fass

(Left) Colodny Fass Shareholder G. Donovan Brown weighed in with A.M. Best on the developments surrounding a high-profile Florida workers’ compensation case pending in the Florida Supreme Court . . .

Best’s News Service via Bestwire – July 15, 2015

By Thomas Harman, Washington Bureau manager, BestWeek

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Workers advocacy groups have asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider an appeal of a district appeals court decision that overturned a prior ruling declaring the state’s workers’ compensation law was unconstitutional.

Florida Workers’ Advocates, a group of civil justice attorneys representing injured workers in Florida, is among those who filed the appeal. The filing by Miami-based attorney Mark Zientz asks the Supreme Court to claim jurisdiction in the case.

The Third District Court of Appeals recently ruled the workers’ advocacy groups who are plaintiffs — Florida Workers’ Advocates and the Workers’

Injury Law and Advocacy Groups — lacked standing to bring the case.

The case originally was filed in 2010 against Velda Farms when Julio Cortes was injured while operating equipment for the company. Cortes and his wife filed an amended complaint in 2011 that questioned the constitutionality of provisions that immunize employers and employees from work injury lawsuits.

Velda later dismissed its defense of workers’ compensation immunity in Cortes’ case, but the workers’ groups continued to seek relief.

The Third District’s ruling did not address any of the constitutionality issues brought by the groups, saying that because Velda opted to dismissal workers’ compensation immunity in Cortes’ case, the count questioning constitutionality of the law was rendered moot (Best’s News Service, June 25, 2015). The groups’ latest petition said the nature of the Third District’s decision gives the Supreme Court the option to hear the case.

The petition said justices should address the case because the end result of the Third District’s decision is to render existing law as constitutional. The petition said the authority for the Supreme Court to take the case comes under the Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure, which provides the Supreme Court with discretionary jurisdiction in cases where a district appeals court declares a state statute valid.

“The Third DCA did so because it expressly reversed the order finding the state statute facially unconstitutional and required the dismissal of the declaratory relief count that raised the issue,” the petition said.

Zientz told Best’s News Service the petition asked the court to consider the “Doctrine of Inherency” when considering whether to take the case. “You have to look at what is inherently being done,” he said. The Supreme Court has two other pending workers’ compensation cases to consider, but Zientz said this one would allow the judges to deal with most pending workers’ compensation issues. He expects the court to answer the petition either in late August or early September.

Donovan Brown, a shareholder and lobbyist representing insurance entities for the Tallahassee firm of Colodny Fass, said the plaintiff’s new filing attempts to have the Supreme Court address the constitutionality issue that the Third District chose to ignore.

The top five writers of workers’ compensation insurance in Florida during 2014 were Great American P&C Insurance Group, with a 12.62% market share; AmTrust Group, with 11.66%; Travelers Group, with 6.01%; Fairfax Financial Group, with 5.46%; and Hartford Insurance Group, with 5.43%, according to BestLink (www.ambest.com/bestlink).

AM Best, Florida Workers Compensation

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