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Brannock Humphries & Berman Successfully Fends Off Cert Petition

The First District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Brannock Humphries & Berman’s client today by rejecting an extraordinary writ petition filed by a workers’ compensation carrier that sought to overturn an order staying the carrier’s lawsuit pending related personal injury litigation.

The appellate issue involved a wrinkle in workers’ compensation law.  Brannock Humphries & Berman’s client was injured in a horrific construction accident.  The client, along with several other workers, was pouring a concrete roof on a new building in Pensacola when the roof collapsed, causing him to fall twenty feet onto a concrete slab and rendering him paralyzed.  The injured worker sued the contractor, from whom he also received workers’ compensation benefits, along with several subcontractors, suppliers, and engineering firms, claiming negligence.

Here’s where the wrinkle comes into play.  Because the worker’s lawsuit was not filed until more than one year after the accident, the workers’ compensation carrier took advantage of a little known provision in Florida law allowing the carrier to bring its own lawsuit, which under certain circumstances can bar the injured worker’s separate action.  A dispute then arose about whether the carrier had followed the proper procedure for filing its suit, and which suit—the carrier’s or the worker’s—should be permitted to go forward.  

After the trial court refused to dismiss the worker’s lawsuit and stayed the carrier’s suit, the carrier petitioned the First District for immediate writ relief.  In essence, the carrier asked the appellate court to overturn the trial court’s decision to put its suit on hold pending the outcome of the worker’s case.  In a short opinion, issued after full briefing and an oral argument, the First District rejected the carrier’s petition, ruling that the carrier had not shown irreparable harm, a necessary component of the certiorari standard.