FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
of Accident: May 21, 2015.
appeal from an order of Judge of Compensation Claims. W.
James Condry II, Judge.
Nicholas A. Shannin of Shannin Law Firm, P.A., Orlando, and
Basil A. Valdivia of Morgan & Morgan, P.A., Orlando, for
A. Lowe and Eric J. Netcher of Dean, Ringers, Morgan &
Lawton, P.A., Orlando, for Appellees.
workers' compensation appeal, the claimant challenges the
denial of his request for a new orthopedic physician under
the one-time change statute, section 440.13(2)(f), Florida
Statutes (2014). We affirm.
facts are undisputed. The employer/carrier (E/C) authorized
Dr. Munson with Jewett Orthopedic Clinic to treat the
claimant's compensable injury. When Dr. Munson retired in
2015, the E/C authorized Dr. Weber with Orlando Orthopaedics.
On June 2, 2016, the claimant filed a petition for benefits
(PFB) seeking a new orthopedic physician pursuant to section
440.13(2)(f). After the E/C timely authorized Dr. Meinhardt,
the claimant filed a second PFB seeking authorization of Dr.
Murrah as his one-time change physician because Dr. Meinhardt
was affiliated with the same practice group as his original
orthopedic physician, Dr. Munson. The E/C responded that it
had properly authorized Dr. Meinhardt as the claimant's
filed a motion for summary final order, and after a hearing,
the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) granted the motion and
denied the claimant's second PFB. The JCC rejected the
claimant's argument that section 440.13(2)(f)
"should be read to say the E/C must authorize a
physician who is not professionally affiliated with
ANY prior physician, hospital, or medical group who
treated the claimant at any time in his case" (emphasis
in JCC's order). Instead, the JCC reasoned that the
statute prohibited professional affiliation with only the
immediately preceding authorized doctor, which in this case
was Dr. Weber-who was undisputedly not professionally
affiliated with Dr. Meinhardt. This appeal followed.
440.13(2)(f) authorizes the claimant to request a change of
physician once during the course of treatment of the
compensable injury. Upon receiving such a request, the E/C
has five days to authorize an alternative physician "who
shall not be professionally affiliated with the previous
physician" (emphasis added).
it is undisputed that Dr. Meinhardt was not professionally
affiliated with Dr. Weber, but he was professionally
affiliated with Dr. Munson through Jewett Orthopedic Clinic.
Thus, resolution of this case boils down to which
physician-Dr. Weber or Dr. Munson-is "the previous
physician" for purposes of section 440.13(2)(f).
agree with the JCC that Dr. Weber is "the previous
physician" for purposes of the one-time change statute.
That phrase clearly and unambiguously refers to a singular
physician by using the definite article "the" and
the singular noun "physician." See Golf Scoring
Sys. Unlimited, Inc. v. Remedio, 877 So.2d 827, 829
(Fla. 4th DCA 2004) ("'The' is a definite
article 'used as a function word with a noun modified by
an adjective or by an attributive noun to limit the
application of the modified noun to that specified by the
adjective or the attributive noun <[the] right
answer>.' Webster's New Collegiate
Dictionary 1199 (1980 ed.). As such, 'the'
limits that to which it refers to only one, to the exclusion
of all others."); Orange Cty. MIS Dep't v.
Hak, 710 So.2d 998, 999 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998) (holding
statute's use of definite article indicates there can be
only one major contributing cause). Accordingly, when coupled
with the adjective "previous, " the statute clearly
and unambiguously refers to the single immediate prior
authorized treating physician, which in this case was Dr.
additional support for this conclusion in Retailfirst
Insurance Co. v. Davis, 207 So.3d 1035, 1037 (Fla. 1st
DCA 2017), where we interpreted a different sentence of
section 440.13(2)(f) "to reflect a legislative intent of
allowing only a one-for-one exchange of physicians within the
same specialty." Viewing the statute as a whole, it
makes sense that "the previous physician" is only
the one being replaced by the new one-time-change physician
in the one-for-one exchange described in Davis.
we have not overlooked the claimant's argument that,
pursuant to section 1.01(1), Florida Statutes, "[t]he
singular includes the plural and vice versa." However,
under the plain language of that statute, this interpretive
tool only applies "when context will permit, " and
here, the context of the phrase "the previous
physician" within the language of section 440.13(2)(f)
as a whole does not permit the interpretation urged by the
claimant. Indeed, the claimant's interpretation would
effectively rewrite the statute to say "a
previous physician" or "the previous
physicians, " thereby substantively reducing
the pool of physicians that could qualify as a one-time
change physician. We lack the authority to rewrite the
statute in this- or any other-manner. See, e.g.,
Thrivent Fin. For Lutherans v. State, Dep't of Fin.
Servs., 145 So.3d ...