A Florida appellate court dismissed a constitutional objection to the statutory ceiling on a worker's right to temporary benefits applied, saying it did not deprive injured workers of access to justice.
Ted Doss worked for the United Parcel Service. He sprained his right knee during work in November 1997, and the UPS approved treatment, including surgery.
Mr. Doss was vacant from September 10, 2016 to January 3, 2017 and returned without functional restrictions. He was placed on maximum medical improvement on February 7, 2017, with a permanent disability of 14%.
UPS did not pay temporary disability benefits for the period he was unable to work after the operation, and the parties provided that he received less than 260 weeks in temporary benefits throughout this claim.
Mr. Doss applied for temporary total invalidity benefits for the period he was unable to work after the operation, but a replacement judge ruled that his eligibility had expired.
The Court of Appeal for the 1
This statutory restriction on the payment of temporary benefits was abolished in 2003 .
According to the 1997 version of section 440.15, Mr. Doss have been entitled to a maximum of 104 weeks in TTD benefits. But in a case from 2016 called Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the 104-week maximum limit, which represented a significant reduction from the previous law, unlawfully violated the right of access to the courts.
As a remedy, the Supreme Court revived an earlier version of the Charter at 260 weeks.
JCC in Mr. Doss' case applied the 260-week limitation from the Supreme Court's Westphal decision but still found that his entitlement to the TTD had expired. ) (4) (5) (5) c) was unconstitutional that applied to him, but the Court of Appeal was not persuaded.
The court said, "the legislative reduction of benefits alone is not sufficient to demonstrate a denial of access to justice. "
The Florida Supreme Court in Martinez v. Scanlan rejected an argument that a change to the maximum temporary total invalidity benefit deprived workers of access to court. The Supreme Court of Martinez said that despite the reduction of benefits, "the Workers' Compensation Act remains a reasonable alternative to tort disputes", and access to justice was not affected by the benefit change.
Mr. Doss also did not face a situation where he received the maximum amount of TTD but did not yet qualify for permanent total invalidity benefit, which was the scenario in the Westphal case.
The court noted that Mr. Doss was off work for only four months after the operation, without loss of pay, and that he can receive permanent benefits because he has achieved maximum medical improvement.