DECA Manufacturing and Southern Owners Ins./Auto-owners v. Faye O. Beckett, DCA#: 19-3441, Panel Judges: Osterhaus, Jay, Kelsey

Applying the 1989 version of the workers’ compensation statute of limitations law for the right to remedial care relating to insertion or attachment of prosthetic device.

The claimant was injured in early 1990, therefore, the 1989 version of the workers’ compensation law was at play. That particular version of the statute contained an exemption that stated: “However, no statute of limitations shall apply to the right for remedial attention relating to the insertion or attachment of a prosthetic device to any part of the body.” (Emphasis added.)

Following the claimant’s injury, surgery was performed where screws and rods were inserted to stabilize her cervical spine. Based on the doctor’s testimony, the Judge of Compensation Claims found that the screws and rods were “placed in the cervical spine to allow for a discectomy and laminectomy surgery to join two vertebral bodies,” which was necessary to treat her compensable injury. The judge held that this equated to the claimant having a prosthetic device. The claimant argued that the statute of limitations would not apply to her, and she further contended that the employer/carrier did not meet their burden to show that it does apply.

With regard to the petition issue, the claimant sought pain management and a replacement mechanical bed without establishing that either were related to the screws and rods in her spine. The First District Court of Appeals pointed out that the fact that she may have a prosthetic device is not, standing alone, sufficient to prevent the statute of limitations from accruing. They contrasted this case with another case where bursitis treatment was not barred by the statute of limitations because the medical evidence showed it was related to the claimant’s hip replacement as a result of his compensable work injury (Peo v. Maas Brothers, 634 So.2d 1130 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994). In this case, however, there was no evidence that either the prosthesis or the surgery required to insert it caused the need for the requested treatment and the benefits, as opposed to the underlying condition that necessitated the prosthesis in the first place.

The First DCA pointed out that, although continued use of a prosthetic would toll the current version of the statute of limitations, it does not toll the 1989 version given its inapplicability to remedial treatment “relating to” the prosthesis.

The First DCA also agreed with the lower court judge that mistaken payments do not toll the statute of limitations. The case was reversed in that the Judge of Compensation Claims erred by denying the employer/carrier a statute of limitations defense.


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