As we in the Florida Workers’ Comp world breathlessly await the Emma Murray decision, and the Supreme Court’s (likely) liberal interpretation of the attorney fee provision, the First DCA keeps ratcheting up their conservative views of Chapter 440.  (See my previous posts here, here and here.) 

This time, the lower appellate court delivers an opinion that focuses on the principle of major contributing cause, section 440.09, interpreting it through a very narrow prism.

In Windsor Manor v. Billie Gene Mathis, the issue was compensability of a neck condition where the Claimant had a definitive pre-existing history.   After reviewing the deposition of the one authorized doctor that testified for Claimant (her IME physician), the Court concluded that there was not enough evidence to support a finding that the major contributing cause of the neck condition was the compensable accident. 

It sounds like a simple cut and dry decision, but check out the case.  The Court really delves into the specific questions asked of Claimant’s IME and analyzes if the doctor’s answers were enough for Claimant to overcome her evidentiary burden.  In the end, the justices found that she did not, then taking it a step further, announcing “it is not the E/C’s burden to disprove MCC [major contributing cause] in connection with the neck condition.”

Reviewing Claimant’s IME’s testimony, its apparent the doctor is having a difficult time with the major contributing cause standard, which is “the cause which is more than 50 percent responsible for the injury as compared to all other causes combined.”  His answers to the questions are ambigous, somewhat wishy-washy.   

You see, in the medical world, often a doctor cannot, with great accuracy, put a percentage number on the root cause of a patient’s condition.  In the Workers’ Comp world, it is statutorily required.  What the First DCA seems to be saying is that if a doctor decides to take a “medical world” view of major contributing cause and fail to give a strong answer about MCC, then the Claimant has not proved her claim for compensability. 

As stated previously, it will be very interesting to see the how Supremes decision of Emma Murray will play out considering how the conservative the First DCA is interpreting the statute lately. 

Could the First DCA be preparing for a glut of litigation?