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Florida Supreme Court schedules arguments in workers comp case

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The Florida Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in a case that questions whether the state's workers compensation system is an adequate exclusive remedy for injured workers.

Oral arguments in Daniel Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital will be heard on April 6, the Florida Supreme Court said Friday in a statement.

“A maximum of 20 minutes to the side is allowed for the argument, but counsel is expected to use only so much of that time as is necessary,” according to the statement.

Experts say the Stahl case, which questions whether the state's workers comp system is adequate in light of 2003 reforms that eliminated permanent partial disability benefits, may pose the biggest challenge yet to the state's exclusive remedy provision.

In December 2003, two months after workers comp reforms took effect, Mr. Stahl injured his lower back while working as a nurse at Hialeah Hospital, court records show. His treating physician determined that he reached maximum medical improvement in October 2005 and assigned him a 7% disability rating.

Voluntarily dismissing his petition before the Tallahassee-based Florida Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims, which adjudicates disputes over workers comp benefits, Mr. Stahl filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the hospital was negligent in causing his injury due to insufficient staffing and questioned the constitutionality of the state's comp system without being able to collect permanent partial disability.

Two other workers comp cases, Bradley Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg et al. and Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Co. et al., are also pending before the court. While Westphal challenges the adequacy of the state's 104-week cap on temporary benefits, Castellanos argues that the attorney fee provision hinders an injured worker's ability to obtain legal representation.