Another Constitutional Challenge to Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Statute is on the Way

Written by: Rayford Taylor, Esq.

The First District Court of Appeal recently considered an appeal in the case of Julio Jiminez v. UPS, Case No. 1D16-4959, involving a challenge to Section 440.12(2) Fla. Stat. (2014). That statute sets the cap on the maximum weekly compensation rate. The merits of the challenge were not addressed by the Appeals Court because the case was sent back to the Judge of Compensation Claims (“JCC”) for further development of the record. Florida appears to be the latest state to challenge the existence of a statutory cap, or limitation on the maximum amount payable as a weekly compensation rate. This challenge is similar to a recent challenge filed in Alabama challenging its version of the maximum compensation rate.

That Alabama case is known as Clower v. CVS Caremark Corp. The trial judge there found the weekly maximum compensation rate of $220.00 to be unconstitutional. The judge also found the statute which limited attorneys’ fees to 15% of the compensation awarded in a workers’ compensation case to be unconstitutional as well. Unlike Florida, which has a severability clause, the Alabama statute does not. Finding any portion of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Statute unconstitutional resulted in the entire workers’ compensation system being held unconstitutional. The Alabama case is currently on appeal.

The Julio Jiminez case here in Florida was sent back to the JCC to conduct a hearing to allow the Claimant to develop the factual and legal parts of his challenge to the statute. Once that is done, the case will again be appealed to the First District Court of Appeal to address the constitutionality of Florida’s maximum compensation rate.

At this point in time, there is no ruling in Florida which has held the statute to be unconstitutional. However, there is no doubt that whatever ruling the JCC issues , there will be an appeal to the First District Court of Appeal, and potentially to the Florida Supreme Court later. The claimant’s bar has had some success in front of the Florida Supreme Court in its challenges to the Attorneys’ Fee Statute and the 104-week limit on temporary indemnity benefits. There is a chance this case will wind up in front of the Florida Supreme Court as well.

If the statute establishing a maximum compensation rate is found to be unconstitutional, all injured employees would arguably be entitled to receive compensation benefits at the rate of two thirds of their average weekly wage (AWW), regardless of how high that weekly payment.

Leave a comment