The U.S. Supreme Court has refused a review of a Florida case that challenge the state’s entire workers’ compensation system. That means the lower court’s ruling in Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital will stand.
The ruling was not wholly unexpected. Stahl was essentially an indictment of the entire workers’ compensation system in Florida. The case stems back to 2003, when plaintiff began working as a nurse at a mid-sized hospital and he suffered a work-related back injury. This occurred just a few months after state legislators had enacted a series of changes to the state’s workers’ compensation program. Two years after his injury, his physician determined that he had reached maximum medical improvement. Unfortunately, that rating – and his injury – was essentially career-ending because, being unable to lift above a certain weight, he could no longer be a nurse. He was then awarded just 12 weeks of impairment benefit income and $5,472 – for an injury that permanently locked him out of his field. Later, the workers’ compensation board determined plaintiff didn’t meet the definition for permanent total disability and his claim for those benefits were denied.
What he argued in his case was that this award of just $5,472 was not adequate for the injury he sustained. Therefore, it could not be the exclusive remedy plaintiff had as recourse. Florida, like so many other states, recognizes an exclusive remedy provision that prohibits injured workers from suing their employer for negligence in exchange for a system of no-fault benefits. However, those benefits are supposed to fairly compensate workers for their losses. It was supposed to be part of a “grand bargain,” but as workers’ compensation protections are being steadily whittled away, it’s more of a bargain for companies and more of a raw deal for workers. Continue reading