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Editorial Criticizes 'Cruelty' of Court Denying Presumption Claim

  • State: Florida
  • Topic: SOUTH
  • - Popular with: Legal

The editorial board for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday criticized the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal for the “cruelty” it displayed in affirming a decision finding a correctional officer was precluded from invoking a presumption because he didn’t undergo a second physical examination when he transitioned from part-time to full-time employment.

Stephen Sargent took a preemployment physical when he started working as a part-time correctional officer for the Bradford County Sherriff’s Office in 2012. He started working full time in May 2013 and was officially designated as a full-time correctional officer in April 2014.

His employer didn’t require a second physical examination, and, in fact, said it was its practice and policy not to administer a new physical examination when workers were promoted.

Sargent attempted to use the state’s presumption that certain heart conditions arise out of employment as a correctional officer, but an administrative law judge said it wasn’t available to him because his physical examination was for a part-time position, not a full-time one.

A split 1st District Court of Appeal earlier in June affirmed.

The Sun-Sentinel editorial board called the ruling bad news for all injured workers whose appeals end up before the 1st DCA. Among other things, the board said the court’s per curiam decision that eschewed any explanation for the decision leaves nothing for Sargent to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The board also compared the Sargent decision to mold exposure claims the same court denied in 2019, saying the older decisions “made it practically impossible for anyone ever to win a toxic mold case.” The same cases also created a high bar for successful claims for exposure to COVID-19.

“In those cases and Sargent’s, the decisions turned on laws that the Legislature could and should correct,” the editorial reads. “But you would have to go back a very long time for any occasion when Florida’s lobbyist-ridden Legislature did anything with the workers’ compensation law other than to make it less fair for wage earners and more comfortable for their employers.”

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