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Workers comp judge ruled too soon on police officer's breast surgery: Court

Posted On: Mar. 28, 2012 12:00 AM CST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—A workers compensation judge prematurely denied benefits for a police officer who underwent surgery to remove excess breast tissue he said was caused by doctor-approved prescriptions, a Florida appellate court has ruled.

Brian Arlotta worked as a police officer for the city of West Palm Beach, Fla. when he strained both of his quadriceps in 2007, court records show. He received workers comp benefits for the knee tendon injuries, and was prescribed anti-inflammatory medications and Zantac to combat side effects of the anti-inflammatory drugs.

In 2009, Mr. Arlotta sought benefits to treat his gynecomastia, which he claimed was a side effect of the prescriptions for his work injury. After evaluations from two doctors, West Palm Beach denied benefits for Mr. Arlotta's condition, court records show.

A workers comp judge requested an evaluation from an expert medical adviser after ruling that two previous doctors had differing opinions on Mr. Arlotta's gynecomastia. However, Mr. Arlotta underwent surgery to remove breast tissue in February 2011, just before a scheduled appointment with the medical adviser.

The workers comp judge ruled that Mr. Arlotta's condition was not compensable because the medical adviser's opinion was rendered moot by Mr. Arlotta's decision to have surgery without approval, according to records.

A three-judge panel of Florida's First District Court of Appeal unanimously overturned that ruling Monday, saying the workers comp judge should have heard the medical adviser evaluation before ruling on Mr. Arlotta's gynecomastia claims.

“Claimant's decision to have the surgery complicates matters, and could ultimately result in the denial of some or all of his claims, but dismissal of his claims was not warranted at this juncture, particularly in light of the (judge's) finding that claimant did not willfully disobey an order,” the appellate court ruled in remanding Mr. Arlotta's case for further consideration.