Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. // Florida’s First DCA Ostensibly Workers’ Compensation’s Supreme Court

scalesFlorida has five district courts of appeal. These courts are charged with reviewing rulings and outcomes arising in lower tribunals. Above these courts sits the Florida Supreme Court. This court reviews decisions issued by the five lower courts of appeal.

Cases reach the Florida Supreme Court in one or more of the following ways: (1) an opinion rendered by one appellate court conflicts with an opinion of one or more other appellate courts; (2) the opinion conflicts with a Supreme Court decision; (3) the appellate court decision declares a statute unconstitutional; or (4) the appellate court declares the question(s) before it to be of great public importance. By far, number (1) is the most common method.

Florida workers’ compensation cases are governed by Chapter 440 of Florida’s Statutes and case law. Workers litigate their claims before non-Article V judges, known as judges of compensation claims (JCC). The jury system is closed to workers’ compensation litigants. Moreover, there is a requirement that all appeals from final orders of the JCCs be heard by the First District Court of Appeal to the exclusion of the other four district courts of appeal. (Second; Third; Fourth; Fifth.)

This requirement that all lower tribunal appellate matters be handled by a particular district court to the exclusion of others is unique to the workers’ compensation system. All other appellate matters are handled by the district court in whose jurisdiction the lower tribunal sits. (Here’s a jurisdictional map.)

The upshot of the First DCA requirement in workers’ compensation cases is that it precludes conflict jurisdiction as a path to the Florida Supreme Court. Since getting to the Florida Supreme Court by methods (2)-(4) is relatively rare, the practical impact of the requirement is that the First DCA is the final word in most workers’ compensation cases.

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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.

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