Can a worker injured outside the state of Florida be eligible for Florida workers’ compensation benefits? The answer lies in § 440.09(1)(d), Fla. Stat.:
If an accident happens while the employee is employed elsewhere than in this state, which would entitle the employee or his or her dependents to compensation if it had happened in this state, the employee or his or her dependents are entitled to compensation if the contract of employment was made in this state, or the employment was principally localized in this state. However, if an employee receives compensation or damages under the laws of any other state, the total compensation for the injury may not be greater than is provided in this chapter.
Key elements for Florida jurisdiction:
- The contract of employment was made in Florida; or
- The employment was principally localized in Florida.
The Contract of Employment. “Where an employment contract was made is determined through a consideration of (1) the hiring authority of the person involved in employment negotiations with the claimant, and (2) the place of performance of the conditions of the proposed employment.” Cleveland Consol., Inc. v. Haren, 672 So.2d 592, 593 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996)(quoting Nelson v. McAbee Constr., Inc., 591 So.2d 1015, 1016 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991)).
In DL Peoples Group, Inc. v. Hawley, 804 So.2d 561 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002), the claimant had minimal contacts with Florida. Nevertheless, jurisdiction was conferred on the Florida JCC. The Court reasoned that the contract was made in Florida. The Court outlined these facts:
“The Appellant’s representative interviewed Hawley in Missouri. Hawley never came to Florida. He responded to an ad in a Missouri newspaper designed to recruit Admissions Representatives to recruit Missouri residents to attend Appellant’s college in Florida. Hawley’s job was to recruit Missouri residents situated in Missouri. The representative recommended Hawley be approved, and an Admissions Representative Agreement (agreement) was mailed to Hawley. Hawley signed the agreement on November 16, 1996, in Missouri. The agreement was subsequently mailed to Appellant’s President, for the “final say,” and he executed the agreement on December 2, 1996, in his office in Kissimmee, Florida. Hawley was then trained exclusively in Missouri. Tragically, Hawley was shot and killed in Missouri while attempting to make one of his first calls.”
The Court relied on basic contract law.
- To form a bilateral contract, there must be mutuality of obligation. See McIntosh v. Harbour Club Villas Condominium, 468 So.2d 1075, 1076 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985); see also Baiter v. Pan American Bank of Hialeah, 383 So.2d 256, 257 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (holding mutuality of obligation is essential to the formation of a bilateral contract); Mark Realty, Inc. v. Rogness, 418 So.2d 373, 376 (Fla. 5th DCA 1982) (holding a contract is bilateral where it contains mutual promises made in exchange for each other by each of the two contracting parties). Because Hawley and the employer made mutual promises, the employment agreement was a bilateral contract.
- A contract is created where the last act necessary to make a binding agreement takes place. See Peters v. E.O. Painter Fertilizer Co., 73 Fla. 1001, 75 So. 749, 750 (1917); see also Ray-Hof Agencies, Inc. v. Petersen, 123 So.2d 251, 253 (Fla.1960); Goodman v. Olsen, 305 So.2d 753 (Fla.1974) (holding that contract signed in New York by promisor from Florida, and partially performed in Florida, was governed by New York law because it was executed in New York). The employment contract between the employer and Hawley was executed in Florida. Cf. Owens v. CCJ Auto Transp., 59 So.3d 179 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011), because the claimant’s acceptance of the employer’s offer (the last act necessary to form the contract) occurred in Florida, jurisdiction was in Florida; and Miller Contracting Co. of Ohio v. Hutto, 156 So.2d 745 (Fla., 1963) (The Court concluded that the claimant’s employment contract was made in Florida because the claimant initially accepted Miller Contracting Company’s offer of employment in Florida.)
Principal Location of Claimant’s Employment. In determining jurisdiction under section 440.09(1)(d), the principal location of the claimant’s employment, not of the employer’s business, is the relevant consideration. Johnson v. United Airlines, 550 So.2d 134, 135 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989); General Elec. v. DeCubas, 504 So.2d 1276, 1277 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986).
In DeCubas, the court looked to the overall temporal distribution of the claimant’s employment engagement. The claimant, a Florida resident injured in Georgia, spent 73% of his time working in Florida, and 27% of his time working in Georgia. The appellate Court found that the JCC had jurisdiction because claimant’s employment was principally localized in Florida.
“Although the temporal distribution of employment is a critical factor, it is not, itself, dispositive.” Hazealeferiou v. Labor Ready, 947 So.2d 599 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007). The claimant was a flight attendant. She was based in Florida throughout her employment and was primarily assigned to flights originating from and returning to Florida. Moreover, her work was supervised in Florida and she received her paychecks in Florida. Her flights, however, often included overnight layovers in other states, and she spent a majority of actual flight time on a typical interstate flight outside of Florida airspace. The Court held that claimant’s contacts with Florida were sufficient to establish principal localization of employment in Florida.
Workers’ compensation cases often implicate other important issues not addressed in this blog. It is always wise to consult with an expert before committing to a position that may not be in your best interest.
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