They key to the Statute of Limitations is knowing your dates.  Without the date of accident, the date of last paid benefit, and the date of the filing of Petition of Benefits, an E/C cannot turn a succesful SOL defense.

However, it also important to know the date an unintentional benefit is paid. . .

In Vartimitis v. Walgreen, the E/C alleged an SOL defense on the grounds that the Claimant did not file his PFB within 2 years of the date of accident.   Section 440.19 bars any PFB if it is not filed within 2 years since the date of accident, or then 1 year since the last date Claimant received benefits.   

The problem for the E/C was that it did authorize prescription drugs one month prior to the 2 years expiring.   However, the E/C presented evidence that this authorization was unintentional.  There is clear case law that if an E/C unintentionally authorizes a benefit for Claimant, that authorization does not toll the SOL.  Based on this case law, the JCC agreed with the E/C and denied Claimant’s PFB. 

The First DCA reversed on the grounds that the authorization of the drugs occurred before the 2 year period ended, thereby tolling the SOL for another year.  Therefore, Claimant did timely file his PFB (2 months after the alleged 2 years was up).

The Court reasoned that an E/C can only raise the SOL defense  if the unintentional payment was made after the SOL passed, not before it.   It’s as if the Court sees the time period before the  2 year SOL running as sacred.   Any mistake by the E/C before the 2 years is on them.   Any mistake after the 2 years is on Claimant.

This is consistent with my previous case, MedPartners/SRS v. Zenith.  In that case, the Court found that once the SOL tolls after the 2/1 year period, there is no going back.   Time waits for no man.  No provision of benefits after the 2 year and then 1 year period can “revive” the SOL.   Hence, the Vartimitis case makes sense since the provision of benefits occurred before the SOL ran.

There is no case yet, but I would bet that if an E/C accidentally pays benefits after the SOL passes and the denies the claim once it recognizes its error, the First DCA would agree with the E/C.  This contention should make E/C’s look back on claims they are still paying and see if the SOL ever ran but they continued to pay.

So, what does Vartimitis mean for E/C’s?  Make sure you know your dates: the date of accident, the date of the last benefits provided, and the date of the last filed PFB.  Because if you make a mistake before the SOL runs . . . well then, you are SOL yourself.

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