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Anderson v. Broward County Sheriff's Office

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

July 25, 2018

Meghan Anderson, Appellant,
v.
Broward County Sheriff's Office and Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          Date of Accident: December 14, 2014.

          On appeal from an order of the Judge of Compensation Claims. Lliana Forte, Judge.

          Bill McCabe, Longwood, and Robert Winess, Boca Raton, for Appellant.

          Marybell Rajo of Pyszka, Blackmon, Levy, Kelley & Rajo, Fort Lauderdale, for Appellees.

          Per Curiam.

         In this workers' compensation appeal, Claimant challenges the order issued by the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denying her request for a $2, 000 advance pursuant to section 440.20(12)(c), Florida Statutes, because she failed to establish a financial need for the advance. Claimant contends that, because the stated purpose for the advance was to pay for an independent medical examination (IME) in support of a pending claim for continued medical treatment, the JCC should not have considered her lack of financial need. As explained below, we disagree with Claimant and affirm the order denying the advance.

         Factual Background

         Claimant is a deputy sheriff who suffered a compensable injury in 2014. She was out of work for two two-week periods and then on light duty for approximately nine months before ultimately returning to full duty. She has at least a one percent permanent impairment rating.

         In July 2017, Claimant filed a petition for benefits seeking continued medical care and a $2, 000 advance. Several months later, Claimant filed a separate motion for a $2, 000 advance to pay the expenses of an IME. At the hearing on the motion, Claimant testified that her base salary was $75, 000 per year, which she augmented by overtime in the form of off-duty security details. Claimant further testified that she was unable to work these details during her various periods of being out of work or having work restrictions, but she acknowledged that for the two years preceding the petition, the only effect on her income was due to her two pregnancies (she was on her second maternity leave at the time of the hearing), not her work injury.

         The employer/carrier opposed the request for an advance, arguing among other things that Claimant did not show a financial need for the advance. Claimant responded that she was not required to prove financial need because she established eligibility for an advance based on her impairment rating and the fact that the purpose of the advance was to pay the expenses of an IME to support her pending petition for benefits. The JCC rejected Claimant's "novel argument" and denied the motion for an advance because she failed to present evidence that her income was insufficient to pay for an IME nor did she otherwise demonstrate a financial need for the advance.

         Analysis

         Orders concerning advances are typically reviewed for an abuse of discretion. See ESIS/Ace Am. Ins. Co. v. Kuhn, 104 So.3d 1111, 1113-14 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014). Here, however, because the issue before us - what a JCC may consider when deciding whether to award an advance - is a legal one, our review is de novo. See Lombardi v. S. Wine & Spirits, 890 So.2d ...


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