Florida Supreme Court Ruling Bad for Businesses and Jobs

Florida Chamber of Commerce to Lead Efforts to Keep Workers’ Comp Working &
Ensure the Voices of Job Creators Are Heard

 “As Florida’s leading advocate fighting to keep workers’ comp working, the potential impact of the high court’s ruling could threaten Florida’s improving business climate. The Florida Chamber remains laser focused on ensuring workers’ comp rates are fair, and we will lead the effort before lawmakers and in the halls of justice to ensure the voices of job creators are heard.”

– Mark Wilson, President and CEO, Florida Chamber of Commerce

TALLAHASSEE, FL (April 28, 2016) – Florida’s high court today ruled against job creators in a case that could threaten Florida’s improving business climate and force workers’ compensation rates to increase, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced today.

Even though business’ workers’ comp rates have continued to decrease, today’s Florida Supreme Court ruling in the Castellanos v. Next Door Company case could potentially push rates toward the near record levels of the early 2000s – levels that forced many Florida businesses to stop hiring and to go out-of-business. Justices ruled that the current attorney fee provision for workers’ comp cases is unconstitutional.

“As Florida’s leading advocate fighting to keep workers’ comp working, the potential impact of the high court’s ruling could threaten Florida’s improving business climate,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

NCCI, the state’s ratemaking agency, will be looking at the impact to workers’ comp rates as a result of today’s decision. The last time the Florida Supreme Court threw out the attorneys’ fee provision, in the Emma Murray case in 2008, rates increased by over six percent.

Just as it led efforts for more than 10 years to help lower rates by almost 60 percent, and fully anticipating an anti-jobs outcome by Florida’s activist court, the Florida Chamber – which filed an Amicus Brief in this case – has already begun leading the charge to once again keep workers’ comp working.

In a letter to Governor Rick Scott, President Andy Gardiner and Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Florida Chamber President Mark Wilson wrote:

“…we have created a short-term task force that has already begun the process of preparing for a legislative response and remedy should the court decide against the legislature and small businesses.”

The Florida Chamber Workers’ Comp Task Force is co-chaired by Debbie Harvey, Chair of the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council, and Steve Knopik, Immediate Past Chair of the Florida Chamber Board of Directors.

“The Florida Chamber remains laser focused on ensuring workers’ comp rates are fair, and we will lead the effort before lawmakers and in the halls of justice to ensure the voices of job creators are heard,” said Wilson. Click here to read a guest editorial, published in the Pensacola News Journal, on this issue by Wilson.

While the Florida Chamber is disappointed in today’s Castellanos ruling, we applaud their decision to discharge jurisdiction in the Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital. This case had oral arguments earlier this month.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Florida Chamber and Florida Justice Reform Institute File Amicus Brief in Important Workers’ Compensation Case

On January 8, 2016, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Justice Reform Institute filed an amicus curiae brief, or friend of the court brief, in support of Hialeah Hospital in Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital — a workers’ compensation case that seeks to make the workers’ comp system, in its entirety, unconstitutional.

Workers’ comp is essential for Florida employers, employees and families because it provides the health care necessary to help an injured employee return to work while also protecting job creators from costly litigation.

The jointly filed amicus brief maintains:

  • Stahl does not have standing, or has not proven that changes to the workers’ comp statute have adversely affected him, and
  • The case did not follow the proper judicial procedure for the Florida Supreme Court to determine if the statute is unconstitutional.

“As the leading advocate fighting to keep Florida’s workers’ comp system functioning, fair and affordable, we are concerned that the potential impact of this case could threaten Florida’s improving business climate,” said David Hart, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “This is another example of Florida’s billboard trial lawyers trying to dismantle a working system by doing what they do best – suing someone.”

Plaintiff attorney maneuvers like we’re seeing with workers’ comp are reflective of a larger legal abuse problem in Florida. In fact, a national survey shows Florida’s lawsuit climate worsening – ranking at an all-time low 44 out of 50 states, the bottom 10. That’s important because 75 percent of companies surveyed say a state’s lawsuit environment is likely to impact important business decisions at their company, such as where to locate or expand.

The Florida Chamber remains laser focused on ensuring workers’ comp rates are fair, and remain committed to ensuring the voices of job creators throughout Florida are heard before lawmakers in the halls of justice. Ensuring injured workers receive quality care and due process is also a priority.

“To secure Florida’s future, we must keep Florida’s workers’ comp system working,” Hart added.

For more than 10 years, the Florida Chamber has led efforts to help lowers workers’ comp rates by almost 60 percent.

Learn More:

If you would like more information, contact cjohnson@flchamber.com.

Justices Hear Arguments Over Potentially Costly Solar Amendment

Florida Chamber Urges Supreme Court to Reject Ambiguous Amendment

Fresh from advocating for Florida families and job creators, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has returned from today’s Florida Supreme Court hearings, where Justices heard debate on a proposed amendment that could increase energy cost. A group behind Limits or Prevents Barriers to Local Solar Electricity Supply defended their proposed amendment before the Florida Supreme Court.

“As a large and growing state, Florida needs a diverse energy portfolio that includes solar energy, however, the proposed constitutional amendment mandates major changes in existing law, using language that is unclear and misleading,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi in June.

The latest Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI) poll shows that Floridians support solar energy, but they do not support a proposed solar amendment that could drive up energy costs. Only 41 percent of likely Florida voters support this proposal – falling far short of passage.

The Florida Chamber filed an Amicus Brief with the Florida Supreme Court opposing this amendment. As noted in the brief prepared by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, the Florida Chamber believes:

  • The solar initiative violates the single-subject requirement, and
  • The title and summary of the amendment are deceptive and misleading to Florida voters.

The Florida Chamber has a long-standing tradition of opposing amendments that can be addressed legislatively or through the state’s budget, an opinion former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero shares in regards to this amendment.

“The proposed solar amendment would put into the Florida Constitution policy requirements that could be accomplished through the Legislative process. Voters should only be asked to amend the state Constitution if the proposed amendment clearly covers a single subject, which this proposed amendment does not,” said former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero.

David Hart, Florida Chamber Executive Vice President, in interviews with members of Florida’s Capitol Press Corps, told reporters that Floridians support solar. However, as Hart explained, “they just don’t support this one.”

With 30 proposed constitutional amendments attempting to make their way onto the ballot and into Florida’s Constitution, voters will be looking closely at those that might increase their utility costs.

Add Your Voice:

Sign the Florida Chamber’s resolution opposing this bad solar amendment. Contact Greg Blose at gblose@flchamber.com to obtain the resolution.

Poll: Floridians Support Solar But Don’t Support Proposed Amendment That Could Increase Energy Cost

 

45% of Floridians Think Florida is Heading in the Right Direction

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (August 31 , 2015) – The latest Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI) poll released today shows that Floridians support solar energy, but they do not support a proposed solar amendment that could drive up energy costs. Only 41 percent of likely Florida voters support Limits or Prevents Barriers to Local Solar Electricity Supply.

“Florida voters clearly support solar, but with 30 proposed constitutional amendments attempting to make their way onto the ballot and into Florida’s Constitution, voters will be looking closely at those that might increase their utility costs,” said Marian Johnson, Senior Vice President of Political Strategy for the Florida Chamber.

The Florida Chamber filed an Amicus Brief with the Florida Supreme Court opposing this amendment. As noted in the brief prepared by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, the Florida Chamber believes:

  • The solar initiative violates the single-subject requirement, and
  • The title and summary of the amendment are deceptive and misleading to Florida voters.

The group behind Limits or Prevents Barriers to Local Solar Electricity Supply must defend their proposed amendment before the Florida Supreme court on Tuesday.

Additional Florida Chamber survey results show that more Floridians believe Florida is heading in the right direction and almost half approve of the job Rick Scott is doing as Governor.

  • 45 percent (nearly one out of two) of Floridians believe Florida is heading in the right direction, and
  • 48 percent (nearly half) of Floridians approve of the job Rick Scott is doing as Governor.

Also, likely Florida voters believe the economy is the most important issue facing Florida. Specifically:

  • 22 percent of registered Florida voters say job creation and improving the economy is the most important issue facing our state,
  • 13 percent of registered Florida voters believe education should be the top issue in the state,
  • 11 percent of Florida voters are concerned about health care and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (known as ObamaCare), and
  • Immigration is gaining traction and seen as the most important issue by 8 percent of voters.

The survey, conducted on August 8-14, 2015 during live landline (62 percent) and cellular (38 percent) telephone calls, included a cross section of 611 registered voters and has a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

Please note:  The samples for the polls conducted by the Florida Chamber Political Institute are consistently drawn from likely voters, meaning those voters who have the propensity and past performance of voting in elections, rather than simply including registered voters.  Voters are again screened for likelihood of voting this November.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Court Rules In Favor of Job Creators/Against Trial Lawyers

The Third District Court of Appeals today ruled against trial lawyers, and in favor of the Florida Chamber and the state’s business community in a case that will help keep workers’ comp rates fair.

In a closely-watched case, Florida v. Florida Workers Advocates (also called the Padgett case), trial lawyers questioned the constitutionality of Florida’s entire workers’ comp system – claiming that the Florida Legislature has eroded workers’ comp benefits so severely that it should not be an exclusive remedy. In its ruling against the trial lawyers, the court found that Florida Workers Advocates did not have standing, nor was the case “moot.”

The Florida Chamber, in conjunction with our partners at the Florida Justice Reform Institute, filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of Florida’s business community, pointing out that the workers’ comp system should be the sole remedy if a worker is injured.

Ensuring Florida’s workers’ comp system is fair and not inflated by trial lawyer tactics and other unnecessary costs will help lower the cost of doing business in Florida. That’s why the Florida Chamber led the effort to help lower workers’ comp rates by more than 50 percent in the last 10 years.

What’s Next?

If this case is appealed, its next stop would be the Florida Supreme Court. In addition to this case, the Florida Supreme Court has already held oral arguments on two additional workers’ comp cases:

  • Castellanos v. Next Door Company, and
  • Westphal v. City of St Petersburg.

All three cases represent trial lawyers attempting to erode Florida’s workers comp system – an effort that could significantly increase workers’ comp rates.

Join Our Team

The Florida Chamber is committed to defending Florida’s business community against costly trial lawyer tactics and keeping workers’ comp rates low. Add your voice to the growing team of business advocates at the Florida Chamber by emailing cjohnson@flchamber.com.

Florida Chamber Expert Panel Discusses Possible Ramification

All eyes are on the Florida Supreme Court as they deliberate taking action on two cases that could significantly impact Florida’s workers’ compensation rates.

Keeping workers’ comp rates fair and not inflated by trial lawyer tactics is a top priority of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. On behalf of Florida’s business community, the Florida Chamber led efforts to help lower workers’ comp rates by more than 50 percent over the last 10 years.

The Florida Chamber is laser focused on both cases before the state’s high court and we are actively engaged, having filed an Amicus Brief in both cases. Recently, during the Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit, a panel of workers’ comp experts shared their thoughts on both cases.

The panel discussed how these cases challenge the gap between temporary and total permanent disability, the legality of caps on attorneys’ fees, and whether workers’ comp should serve as an exclusive remedy. A decision against the business community in any one of these cases could have a significant impact on workers’ comp rates.

The Florida Chamber is committed to keeping you apprised of the outcome of these cases, and will share the high court’s ruling as soon as the opinion is released.

Florida Chamber Fights for Workers’ Comp Attorney Fee Caps in Supreme Court

When the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a high profile workers’ comp case (Castellanos v. Next Door Company,) a Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Justice Reform Institute joint amicus brief served as a defense tool in a battle to maintain caps on attorneys’ fees in workers’ comp cases.

Former Justice Raoul Cantero, arguing on behalf of employer Next Door Company, cited the Florida Chamber/Justice Reform Institute joint amicus brief to refute arguments the petitioners made regarding the reasonability of attorneys’ fee caps.

Florida Chamber Executive Vice President David Hart, and I attended the proceedings on behalf of Florida’s employers.

This is the third workers’ comp case currently before the Florida Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the workers’ comp system. Another case is pending before the Third District Court of Appeal.

The Florida Chamber and our partners at the Florida Justice Reform Institute have filed an amicus curiae brief on each of these cases. These cases challenge the gap between temporary and total permanent disability, whether bad faith applies in workers’ comp and whether workers’ comp should serve as an exclusive remedy.

A decision against the business community in any one of these cases could have a significant impact on workers’ comp rates.

Oral arguments have been completed on each of the three cases before the Florida Supreme Court, and it is not clear on when the Supreme Court will make a decision. The Florida Chamber is committed to fighting on behalf of Florida employers. We are actively involved and monitoring these cases closely and are ready to take action when a decision is made.

Are Workers’ Comp Issues Impacting Your Business?

We want to hear from you. Share your workers’ comp story by emailing me at cjohnson@flchamber.com.

Miami Court Rules Workers’ Comp Unconstitutional – What It All Means

Yesterday, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge issued a summary judgment that the Florida workers’ compensation system is unconstitutional.

The case, filed by workers’ comp advocates, argued that the workers’ comp system should no longer be the sole remedy for an injured employee because benefits have been eroded over time by the Florida Legislature. This means that injured employees could sue employers to receive additional benefits or damages above and beyond what is provided by the workers’ comp system.

Breaking It Down

According to Florida Chamber legal experts, this case does not have a bearing over the entire state. Attorney General Pam Bondi, as well as other legal experts, are reviewing the case to determine next steps in the Circuit Court ruling.

It’s very unusual for a circuit court judge to rule on the constitutionality of an issue. Furthermore, the workers’ comp system has been a well-established system, since the 1960’s, as being the exclusive remedy in a work-related injury.

Thanks to the Florida Chamber’s pro-business advocacy, the Florida Legislature has been committed to ensuring that employees receive the necessary care and get back to work quickly, while still ensuring costs remain competitive. Our work to make Florida’s business climate more competitive continues.

The Florida Chamber has filed three amicus briefs on behalf of the state’s business community in separate workers’ comp cases challenging the constitutionality of the system before the Florida Supreme Court. These cases challenge the 1) gap between temporary and total permanent disability, 2) whether bad faith applies in workers’ comp, and 3) the legality of attorneys’ fee caps.

 

What It All Means:

A ruling on any of these three cases would likely supersede the Miami-Dade Circuit Court decision.

 

Stay Up To Date:

The Florida Chamber is your source for up-to-date information on the business issues that concern you most. Get involved and stay up to date. Email me at cjohnson@flchamber.com.