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Appeals Court Poised To Hear Workers’ Comp Case

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As lawmakers ponder changes to the workers' compensation insurance system, the 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments Feb. 22 about whether Florida's Sunshine Law was violated before regulators approved a 14.5 percent rate increase in September.

The appeals court issued an order Monday scheduling the arguments, according to an online docket. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled in November that the rate increase should be tossed out because of violations of the open-government law. The appeals court allowed the increase to take effect Dec. 1, while the state Office of Insurance Regulation and the National Council on Compensation Insurance challenged Gievers' ruling.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance, commonly known as NCCI, files proposed rates for workers' compensation insurance companies and was accused in the Sunshine Law case of failing to comply with requirements about holding open meetings during its deliberations on the rate hike.

The appeals-court hearing will come slightly less than two weeks before the March 7 start of the annual legislative session, which is expected to include a debate about changes to the workers' compensation system.

The Florida Supreme Court last year ruled that two parts of the system — including a limit on attorney fees — were unconstitutional. Those rulings played a major role in the 14.5 percent rate increase and spurred business groups to call for lawmakers to take steps to hold down costs.