UTOPIA HOME CARE/GUARANTEE INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellants/Cross-Appellees,
BEATRIZ ALVAREZ, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
of Accident: April 6, 2011.
appeal from an order of Judge of Compensation Claims. Stephen
L. Rosen, Judge.
Paulette Z. Brown and Ben H. Cristal of Cristal Hanenian,
Tampa, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
S. Loquasto of Fox & Loquasto, P.A., Tallahassee, and
Bradley G. Smith of Smith, Feddeler & Smith, P.A.,
Lakeland, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
issue before us is the proper interpretation of section
440.093(3), Florida Statutes (2011). Under the plain meaning
of the statute, which we will discuss before applying it to
the facts of this case, we reverse.
Benefits for Mental or Nervous Injury.
At all pertinent times, section 440.093(3) has provided as
Subject to the payment of permanent benefits under s. 440.15,
in no event shall temporary benefits for a compensable mental
or nervous injury be paid for more than 6 months after the
date of maximum medical improvement for the injured
employee's physical injury or injuries, which shall be
included in the period of 104 weeks as provided in s.
440.15(2) and (4). Mental or nervous injuries are compensable
only in accordance with the terms of this section.
440.093(3) must be interpreted in para materia with
the subsections that immediately precede it and the sections
expressly referenced within it. See Cecil W. Perry, Inc.
v. Lopez, 425 So.2d 180, 181 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983)
(reading parts of pertinent subsection of workers'
compensation act in para materia to arrive at proper
construction); White v. City of Jacksonville, 413
So.2d 95, 96 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982) (same). The subsections
immediately preceding section 440.093(3) emphasize the
requirement of an "accompanying physical injury
requiring medical treatment" before payment of benefits
for mental or nervous injuries is allowed. § 440.093(1),
Fla. Stat. (2011). Mental or nervous injuries must be
demonstrated by "clear and convincing medical evidence
by a licensed psychiatrist, " and the compensable
physical injury must "be and remain the major
contributing cause of the mental or nervous condition."
§ 440.093(2), Fla. Stat. (2011).
reference to section 440.15, Florida Statutes (2011), at the
beginning of section 440.93(3)-"[s]ubject to the payment
of permanent benefits under s. 440.15"-likewise requires
a connection between mental or nervous injuries and an
underlying compensable physical injury that is permanent in
nature. Section 440.15 provides for payment of permanent
benefits for permanent total disability or for permanent
impairments remaining after the date of maximum medical
improvement ("MMI"). § 440.15(1), (3) Fla.
Stat. (2011). Thus, when a claimant attains physical MMI and
the physical injury qualifies for a permanency rating, the
claimant is entitled to, and "subject to the payment of
permanent benefits" under, section 440.15.
dispute before us involves the next phrase in section
440.093(3): "in no event shall temporary benefits for a
compensable mental or nervous injury be paid for more than
six months after the date of maximum medical improvement for
the injured employee's physical injury or injuries . . .
." The issue is whether this six-month period is a bank
of time that, subject to the payment of permanent benefits,
can be awarded at any time after the claimant reaches
physical MMI; or whether it is a calendar-based limitation
that begins upon physical MMI and expires six months later.
Our prior cases addressing the issue treat the six-month
period as a calendar-based limitation, and we adhere to that
School Board of Lee County v. Huben, 165 So.3d 865
(Fla. 1st DCA 2015), we construed the statute according to
its plain meaning, as we must. Id. at 867 ("in
construing statute, courts must first look to its plain
language") (citing Perez v.Rooms To
Go,997 So.2d 511, 512 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008)). We
concluded that the plain meaning of the statute required us
to reject the "bank of time" interpretation of ...