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Florida workers comp challenge seeks U.S. Supreme Court review

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The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review a challenge of the constitutionality of Florida's workers compensation system in a case on which the state Supreme Court declined to rule.

Miami attorney Mark Zientz petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a writ of certiorari in Daniel Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital. The case questions whether Florida's workers comp system is an adequate exclusive remedy for injured workers following changes that eliminated permanent partial disability benefits.

One question in the petition that was filed Tuesday asks if Florida's workers comp law violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution “in a case where no benefits can be awarded to an injured worker to cover … partial loss of future wage earning capacity.”

Despite originally accepting jurisdiction, the Florida Supreme Court in April unanimously decided not to review the case “after further consideration and hearing oral argument.”

The state Supreme Court did not explain its decision, which effectively upheld last year's ruling by Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. The appellate court upheld the validity of the state's workers comp law — specifically the 1994 addition of a $10 copayment for medical visits after an injured worker attains maximum medical improvement, and the 2003 elimination of permanent partial disability benefits.

Mr. Stahl injured his lower back while working as a nurse in December 2003, two months after workers comp reforms took effect, court records show. He filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Hialeah Hospital was negligent in causing his injury and argued that the workers comp system was an inadequate exclusive replacement remedy for a tort action.

The U.S. Supreme Court took no immediate action on the petition.