Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. // Interplay Between the ADA and the Florida Workers’ Compensation Misrepresentation Defenses

wheelchair2The defense of Florida workers’ compensation claims under Martin v. Carpenter, 132 So.2d 400 (Fla. 1961) and Florida Statute 440.15(5)(a) are employer/carrier favorites. While similar, the defenses are not entirely alike.

The case and statute deal with misrepresentations made by job seekers concerning medical history. Under Martin, applicants who lie about their medical history can be denied workers’ compensation benefits for otherwise compensable claims when the evidence shows:

  1. Causal relationship between the injury and the false representation;
  2. The employee knew the representation to be false;
  3. The employer relied on the false representation; and
  4. Such reliance resulted in consequent damage to the employer.

Section 440.15(5)(a) is slightly different. It reads as follows:

The fact that an employee has suffered previous disability, impairment, anomaly, or disease, or received compensation therefor, shall not preclude her or him from benefits, as specified in paragraph (b), for a subsequent aggravation or acceleration of the preexisting condition or preclude benefits for death resulting therefrom, except that no benefits shall be payable if the employee, at the time of entering into the employment of the employer by whom the benefits would otherwise be payable, falsely represents herself or himself in writing as not having previously been disabled or compensated because of such previous disability, impairment, anomaly, or disease and the employer detrimentally relies on the misrepresentation. (Bold added.)

§ 440.02(13) defines “Disability” as “incapacity because of the injury to earn in the same or any other employment the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of the injury.”

In Irving v. Ametek, Inc., 765 So.2d 1045 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000), the Claimant appealed an order of the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) which denied the claim, in part, on Martin v. Carpenter. The Claimant argued that Martin had been overruled by the later adoption of section 440.15(5)(a), which, in her view, would operate as a denial only if she was previously “disabled or compensated” and falsely represented that fact in writing. Since Irving was neither previously disabled nor compensated by her shoulder condition, she argued her claim should not have been denied.

The appellate court disagreed with the Claimant, finding that Martin remained a viable defense apart from the statute.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Before a job offer is made, employers subject to the Act — 14 or more employees — are prohibited from inquiring about disabilities and prior workers’ compensation cases, and requiring a medical examination. However, they are allowed to ask questions about an applicant’s ability to perform specific job functions. Moreover, once a job offer is made but before the actual work begins, medical examinations and health history questions are allowed. Answers given during this stage are subject to scrutiny under Martin v. Carpenter and Section 440.15(5)(a).

The bottom line is that an employee’s lack of truthfulness can be used against him or her.

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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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