Thursday, June 25, 2015

Padgett Out, Now What?

The big news that I'm sure will be circulating the workers' compensation world of information this week is that the Third District Court of Appeals in Florida reversed the Padgett decision.

Recall back in 2014 (seems so long ago!) that a trial judge in Florida wrote a lengthy opinion about the inadequacies of that state's system, opining that reforms had so decimated benefits that the system no longer met constitutional muster.

The state took that case up on appeal, I presume to set the record straight.

But the 3rd DCA set aside Judge Cueto's ruling on procedural grounds, not addressing any of the merits.

This leaves the question open.

The organizations pushing the constitutional challenge have vowed to continue the fight.

And those defending the system realize that the attacks will continue, particularly since there are still two cases pending in the Florida Supreme Court attacking smaller provisions of the law on similar grounds (Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg is about the statutory limits on the payment of temporary total disability benefits, and Castellanos v. Next Door Co. involves a challenge to the cap on claimant attorney fees).

I'm headed to Las Vegas this morning to attend the California Applicant Attorneys' Association's annual summer conference. Padgett isn't on the agenda, but I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion around the exhibit floor, and perhaps even in the sessions, on the case.

When we pull away all of the emotion though, the question, really, is: if workers' compensation (in any jurisdiction) is unconstitutional, then what's the alternative?

Do the plaintiff lawyers REALLY want workers' compensation to go away?

Or are they using a big club to get the attention of lawmakers to get back to the bargaining table and take a look at whether or not there is some validity to their cause in seeking a better system?

Do employers REALLY want to face a jury of their peers, or are they comfortable with the risk that they are just one injury away from financial catastrophe?

I find it hard to believe that, but for a few rogues, the plaintiff lawyers REALLY want to do away with workers' compensation, and likewise I find it hard to believe that employers are comfortable with the risk. 

When work comp operates well it does what it is supposed to do and everyone makes out okay.

And when it doesn't work well then there are tragic stories to tell.

Sam Miller, the executive director of the Florida Insurance Council, told WorkCompCentral, that his industry needs some reflection.

"So far we've dodged a bullet," Miller said, but if either Supreme Court case results in parts of the comp system being invalidated, employers and their insurance carriers are likely going to have to contend with increased costs, and groups like his are going to have to put pressure on lawmakers for a legislative fix.

Perhaps when that happens those who represent injured workers will have greater a louder voice when the sausage is made, from Florida to California, and all the states in between.

No comments:

Post a Comment