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Injured Nurse Takes Aim At Workers' Comp Law

Stethoscope and gavel against a white backdrop.
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

With the Florida Supreme Court agreeing last month to take up the case, an injured nurse has filed a brief challenging the constitutionality of the state's workers-compensation insurance system.

The brief, filed Monday, contends that changes lawmakers made in 2003 to the system "decimated and eviscerated" benefits for injured workers. It also contends that injured workers have been deprived of rights because they are blocked from pursing claims in civil trials outside of the decades-old workers' compensation legal system.

The Supreme Court on Oct. 13 agreed to take up the case after more than a decade of legal wrangling about injuries suffered in December 2003 by Daniel Stahl, a nurse at Hialeah Hospital who hurt his back lifting a patient. In part, the legal dispute has centered on a move by lawmakers in 2003 to eliminate a type of benefits for partial disability, according to the brief.

"Since 2003 the loss of the inviolate right to trial by jury (through the workers compensation system) has been in exchange for a scheme that provides no recompense at all for permanent partial inability to earn the same or similar wages that the injured worker earned at the time of the injury,'' said the brief filed by Stahl's attorney, Mark Zientz.

The Stahl case is one of at least three challenges pending at the Supreme Court to the state workers-compensation insurance laws.

Lawmakers passed a major overhaul of the system in 2003 that sought to reduce costs amid what business groups described as an insurance crisis. But attorneys for injured workers have long argued that the changes went too far.

Attorneys for Hialeah Hospital and Sedgwick Claims Management argued in a brief earlier this year that the Supreme Court should not take up the Stahl case.