Fla. Workers’ Compensation Rules Repealed; Little Effect Expected on Insurance Industry

December 3, 2004

The Florida Supreme Court yesterday decided that it lacked jurisdiction and repealed recent changes in Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Rules, but according to knowledgeable industry experts, the action should have little direct effect on the insurance industry. The court was responding to a routine review request by the Florida Bar to consider amendments to the Rules of Procedure.

Justices stated that they did not want to “create an upheaval of decades of workers’ compensation law,” ruling that its action was prospective in nature only.

In an extraordinary maneuver, the Court decided that “it never had jurisdiction, and thus the rules that were previously promulgated are invalid.”

James N. McConnaughhay, an expert on Workers’ Compensation Law predicted to Insurance Journal that “this opinion will have little or no effect on the insurance industry.” McConnaughhay is a senior partner in McConnaughhay, Dugg, Coonrod, Pope & Weaver, P.A., with offices in Tallahassee, Panama City, Jacksonville, Sarasota and Gainesville.

McConnaughhay said the rules rejected by the Florida Supreme Court were filed by the Florida Bar, a procedure followed for years, asking that the court approve rules to be followed in workers’ compensation proceedings, much like what is done in Article 5 (civil) courts.

“It has long been debated whether the supreme court as an Article 5 court had jurisdiction to promulgate rules for an “administrative court” which is presided over by Judges of Compensation Claims,” MCConnaughhay said.

“The Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) had adopted rules for workers compensation matters and quite frankly there were “competing rules” creating a question as to what rules would control,” MCConnaughhay explained. “The DOAH rules will obviously apply now.

“These rules relate to procedures that are followed when litigating workers compensation matters and relate to discovery, filing of claims, pretrial matters, procedures to follow before JCCs, etc. I cannot imagine that there will much effect on the insurance industry, if in fact there will be any effect. They relate primarily to procedures to be followed by attorneys in litigating w/c matters.”

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