Workers' comp case goes to Supreme Court

A Broward County school employee’s constitutional challenge to part of Florida’s workers’ compensation insurance laws has gone to the state Supreme Court.

An attorney for Teresita De Jesus Abreu last week asked the Supreme Court to take up the case after the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected the challenge, according to documents posted on the Supreme Court website.

The case was filed against the Broward County School Board and Broward’s Riverland Elementary School and stems from a shoulder injury Abreu suffered while at work in 2015. Workers’ compensation insurance covered surgery to address a partial rotator-cuff tear, according to the appeals court. But Abreu continued to have pain and sought coverage of another shoulder surgery as recommended by an orthopedic physician who had not been authorized under the workers’ compensation coverage.

That led to a dispute about whether the additional surgery was needed, and a judge of compensation claims appointed what is known as an “expert medical adviser” to offer an opinion.

The expert medical adviser said Abreu should not receive the additional surgery, and the judge denied coverage for the procedure. Abreu’s attorney raised a series of constitutional arguments challenging part of state law that deals with expert medical advisers.

The appeals court turned down the arguments. But in a brief filed at the Supreme Court, Abreu’s attorney contended, in part, that the disputed law violates the constitutional separation of powers.

It said for example, that the Legislature’s decision to give expert medical advisers “a presumption of correctness and require 'clear and convincing' evidence” for judges of compensation claims to reject expert medical advisers’ opinions infringed on the executive branch’s authority to set rules of procedure for workers’ compensation cases.