Florida Supreme Court Rules Injured Worker Can Sue Under State Collection Law

The Florida Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling holding that an individual subjected to debt collection activities for an injury covered by workers’ compensation can sue under the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act instead of the state’s Department of Financial Services holding jurisdiction.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Sheridan Radiology Services of Pinellas and Laboratory Corporation of America vs. Davis can be accessed by clicking here.

Patty Davis was injured on the job and sought medical care at Sheridan and Labcorp, both of which then sent multiple bills and engaged in attempts to collect on the debt. Davis sued, alleging the companies violated the FCCPA because she should not have been billed for her injuries — her employer’s workers’ compensation carrier was responsible for any reimbursements. A trial court judge agreed with Sheridan and Labcorp that a provision of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Law which held that the DFS had “exclusive jurisdiction” regarding reimbursement and dismissed Davis’ complaint. She appealed and a state Appeals Court overturned the lower court’s decision. Sheridan and Labcorp appealed that decision and the Supreme Court agreed with the Appeals Court that the argument that the words “reimbursement” and “payment” are synonymous was not accurate.

Reimbursement “does not encompass a payment for services made by the recipient of services to the provider of those services,” the Supreme Court wrote in its ruling. “The ordinary meaning of the term thus is not consistent with the meaning urged by the petitioners. Contrary to the line of analysis advanced by the petitioners, ‘reimburse’ is not a synonym for ‘pay.’ In common usage, all reimbursements are payments but not every payment is a reimbursement.”

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