AUGUST 19, 2014
Last week, a Florida state court judge in Miami declared that Florida’s workers’ compensation law is unconstitutional because the various benefits available to injured workers under the law have been so diminished over time by the Florida Legislature that it violates the fundamental rights of those workers.
Under the law, Florida employees who are injured on the job cannot sue their employers. Their exclusive remedy is to seek benefits through the workers’ compensation system with respect to workplace injuries (except in certain rare circumstances). In his ruling, the Florida judge stated that “[the workers’ compensation benefits] in the law have been so decimated that it no longer provides a reasonable alternative” to filing a private lawsuit in state court.
Nearly fifty years ago, the Florida Legislature amended state law to provide that the exclusive legal remedy to employees who are injured on the job is to seek benefits under the workers’ compensation system. At the time, the law required employers to pay for all medical bills and to provide more generous benefits to injured workers than the law does today. Since then, however, the Legislature has amended the law to scale back benefits available to injured workers in an effort to lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums for employers and to make Florida more attractive to out-of-state businesses seeking to relocate.
Currently, the ruling only applies to workers’ compensation claims arising in the Miami-Dade County judicial circuit that are assigned to the judge who wrote the opinion. If the case is appealed, it will join two other cases challenging the constitutionality of some or all of the workers’ compensation law. One of those cases is currently pending before the Florida Supreme Court.
We will continue to provide timely updates as those cases progress through the Florida court system.