Florida Chamber to Represent Florida’s Business Community at Workers’ Comp Hearings

By: Carolyn Johnson

Tomorrow, the Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital, one of three workers’ compensation cases before the Court that seeks to dismantle the workers’ comp system. Stahl argues that the Florida Legislature has eroded benefits to the point that workers’ comp should not be the exclusive remedy for an injured employee, thus is unconstitutional.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce believes that maintaining exclusive remedy is a key component of Florida’s workers’ comp laws and prevents job creators from being sued for above and beyond what is provided by the workers’ comp system. Employers are required to purchase workers’ comp insurance, and workers’ comp claims are paid, regardless of who is at fault.

The Florida Chamber, along with the Florida Justice Reform Institute, have filed a friend of the court brief. Our brief argues that, “For decades, workers’ compensation has been providing much needed benefits to injured Florida workers in a timely, efficient, and economically sound manner. Florida’s employers depend on the program because, in exchange for providing workers’ compensation benefits to their employees, they receive immunity from costly and prolonged tort litigation. If the immunity provision is held optional or invalid, the entire system will collapse.”

Not surprisingly, plaintiff attorneys represented by the Florida Justice Association, are on the other side of this important business issue. Trial lawyers called Florida’s workers’ comp system a “race to the bottom” and said Florida’s workers’ comp laws have “become bastardized from its intended purpose and injured workers are the scapegoats sacrificed at the altar.”

This is the fifth case that trial lawyers have appealed up to the Florida Supreme Court in the last three years.

Previously, the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in both the Castellanos and Westphal cases in 2014.  A decision has not been issued on either of these two cases. The business community won the third case, Zenith v. Morales and the fourth case, Padgett, was rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.

In support of Florida’s business community, the Florida Chamber will attend tomorrow’s oral arguments, and continue to keep you informed on each of these cases.