Saturday, April 15, 2017

Colorado Compensation Conference 2017

The Colorado Department of Labor opens its 2017 Workers' Compensation Conference on Monday in scenic Colorado Springs. It is an ambitious three-day agenda, and has attracted over 175 attendees from across Colorado and various other states, including 12 from Florida. The quality of the programming is illustrated in the variety of attendees. And there are exhibitors and speakers, all told there will be over 300 people in attendance. 

A big draw Monday afternoon will be the Regulator Roundtable. For 75 minutes, the Director of the Colorado Division of Workers' Compensation will moderate a discussion of what is topical in American workers' compensation.

The topics are not published in the conference materials. The Agenda merely promises "agency leaders from three states to a panel discussion focused on the challenges, concerns and issues facing jurisdictions across the nation." And, that is fairly general. What are the issues and concerns facing workers' compensation?

I am honored to be on the panel in Colorado Springs, but I am not the moderator. So, I don't know all of the topics that could be mentioned, and the free-flowing nature of a panel like this is truly a significant part of its charm. But, here are my predictions of possible discussions:

(1) The challenges of the Grand Bargain. Workers' compensation is a series of complex systems. It involves and affects every American, despite the vast majority never noticing or appreciating it.

(2) Legislative and regulatory policy development. How competing interests and perspectives vie for attention and primacy in a complex and evolving political process.

(3) The debates and challenges of constitutionality. Recent years have brought unprecedented volumes of legal challenges. The very essence of the Grand Bargain, access to courts, freedom of association and more have been debated.

(4) Challenges of due process and equal protection. Legislatures have provided special benefits and presumptions to some workers. First responders have come to enjoy status and benefits denied to others; more recently moves to compensate mental injuries and cancers have begun.

(5) Subjectivity and objectivity have each been decried and championed. Recent trends are toward standardization, with states adopting treatment guides, impairment guides, and medication formularies.

(6) The injured continue to struggle with the truth of pain. The promise of opioids has, for many, instead been a disappointing lie. Patients have acclimatized, doses have escalated, addiction has become reality, and death has loomed. It is an illustration of the convergence of medical art, science, compassion, legislation, regulation, competing interests and the challenges endemic to workers' compensation.

Your panelists are fortunate to be led by moderator Paul Tauriello. Paul is Director of the Colorado Division, and a long-time leader in workers' compensation. He brings decades of experience to the podium. Paul has been involved in a variety of national workers' compensation discussions, and is a frequent presenter, panelist and moderator at national conferences. He brings focus to challenges that these systems face. 

The Oklahoma experience over the last few years has been intriguing on a variety of levels. The state recently (2014) abandoned its' workers' compensation court process and joined the majority of states with an administrative hearing process for claims. It experimented with an "opt-out" for employers, which ambitiously promised the best of everything to everyone, but which the courts concluded was unconstitutional. From benefits to process, there have been various constitutional challenges in Oklahoma, and throughout Bob Gilliland has been at the helm.

In the Oklahoma system, workers' compensation is managed by a three-member Commission, of which Bob Gilliland is the chair. He has practiced law in Oklahoma for 51 years. The Commission there provides regulatory leadership, management of both claims and administrative adjudication processes, and acts as an appellate court to review decisions. Oklahoma has been fortunate to have Bob's leadership and experience on hand during its' transition to a modern administrative system. 

Georgia's workers' compensation system is similarly organized, with a three-member Board charged with the overseeing the administrative, regulatory, and adjudicatory processes. Georgia's Board similarly acts as an appellate body, reviewing the decisions of the state's administrative law judges (ALJ). Chair Frank McKay was appointed in 2013, after practicing workers' compensation for 22 years. His experience was both in trial and appellate practice, and he served on the Georgia Workers' Compensation Advisory Council. Several states have similar organizations focused on the challenges of both legislative and regulatory management of the system. 

And, unfortunately, they were unable to find a third speaker of such caliber and so yours truly will join the panel. I am humbled to share the stage with these luminaries of the workers' compensation world.

We will endeavor, in the course of 75 minutes, to bring a variety of subjects to the table. There will likely be agreements and consensus, but there will undoubtedly be disagreement and debate. It is the "must-see" of the Colorado conference. Fortunately, it is followed at 5:00 by the Welcome Reception. Frankly, following 75 minutes of discussion this focused, involved, and passionate, you are likely to feel you need the break. 

I look forward to seeing you at the Regulator's Roundtable, Rocky Mountain style. Sit in the front, we will be calling on those that try to hide in the back rows!

Friday, April 7, 2017

March PFB Filing Rates Posted

The figures are in for Florida workers' compensation litigation filings for 3/4 of the fiscal year, through March 31, 2017.

The PFB filings were up notably in January (14%) over the same month last year. February was statistically unchanged from a year prior. March figures returned to the trend of increas. The OJCC continues to project an annualized increase in the range of 6-7%.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

39 N.J. Prac., Workers' Compensation Law § 34.9 (3d ed.)

Was greatly flattered by a recent contact from workers' compensation guru Jon Gelman. Mr. Gelman is an attorney, author, blogger and advocate in New Jersey. He "wrote the book" up there, New Jersey Practice Series, Workers' Compensation Law. In the February 2017 update to the section above (39 N.J. Prac., Workers' Compensation Law § 34.9 (3d ed.)), he quoted a blog post from last July. 

I feel just like Navin Johnson (Steve Martin) in The Jerk (1979). 

A big thanks to Mr. Gelman for the reference. It is good to know that the blog gets read!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Port St. Lucie temporary procedures.

On Monday, March 13, 2017 we temporarily closed the Port St. Lucie office premises. There are some structure issues that we are dealing with and the office will remain temporarily closed for a short period as we assess how best to move forward. In the meantime:

Mediations will resume the week of March 20, 2017. Mediator Paul Harwood will be mediating as scheduled, but they will be telephonic mediations for the time being.

Rescheduling and scheduling calls may be directed to the PSL district number. You will be relayed to staff elsewhere that can assist you. It may be necessary for staff to call you back to make changes. Or, you may call Lyna Hickman in Panama City 850.872.7774 for the time being and she will work with you to make calendar changes.

Hearings will also resume the week of March 20, 2017. The OJCC will be in touch to advise of location changes. Some hearings may be moved to facilities in the local area or to other OJCC offices.

More will be posted here as more information becomes available. Email questions or concerns to

Monday, February 20, 2017

Miami Nominees Announced 02.20.17

The Statewide Judicial Nominating Commission for Judges of Compensation Claims met in Orlando on February 20, 2017. The nominations for the Miami vacancies are

To replace Judge Charles Hill
Jeffrey Jacobs
Michele Ready
Robert Wells

To replace Judge Gerardo Castiello
David Goehl
Walter Havers
Robert Wells

Monday, February 6, 2017

Florida Legislative Session 2017

Some 2017 Florida Legislative filings:

SB 404 was filed by Senator Simmons. It provides "that the maximum reimbursement allowances and manuals approved by a three-member panel for purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Law are exempt from legislative ratification under the Administrative Procedure Act when the adverse impact or regulatory costs of such allowances or manuals exceed any criteria specified in provisions, etc." No companion bill filed as yet. 

SB 516 was filed by Senator Perry. It deletes "provisions that limit certain workers’ compensation benefits for first responders; providing that mental or nervous injuries of law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics are compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Law under specified conditions, etc." Amends 440.093 "Mental and nervous injuries" by adding a new paragraph (4) that would read "a mental or nervous injury suffered by a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic is compensable under this chapter, whether or not the mental or nervous injury is accompanied by physical injury requiring medical treatment, if the mental or nervous injury is demonstrated by clear and convincing medical evidence by a licensed psychiatrist to meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder as described in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association and if the mental or nervous injury arose out of an activity performed within the course of employment as described in s. 440.091."

Last revised 02.06.17

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

PFB and New Case filings January 2017

The figures are in for Florida workers' compensation litigation filings in January 2017.

The PFB filings were up notably in January (14%) over the same month last year. The OJCC is projecting an annualized increase in the range of 6-7%.

2015-16 2016-17 Change 2017/2016
July 5618 5637 0%
August 5443 6514 20%
September 5411 6125 13%
October 5788 5335 -8%
November 4982 5375 8%
December 5115 5461 7%
January 5035 5720 14%
February 5481 5488 0%
March 6002
April 5494
May 6119
June 6777
Average 5605 5738 2%

The "new cases" volume for January was also significantly increased (5%). The OJCC is projecting an annual increase of about 2% for 2017.

2015-16 2016-17 Change
July 2740 2538 -7%
August 2529 2936 16%
September 2625 2650 1%
October 2744 2406 -12%
November 2330 2509 8%
December 2354 2400 2%
January 2363 2487 5%
February 2600 2378 -9%
March 2739
April 2579
May 2638
June 2937
2598 2538

These projections are based upon the best information available, but are subject to change depending upon the potential filings volumes of the five months remaining in this fiscal year.