PATTY DAVIS, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, Appellant,
SHERIDAN HEALTHCARE, INC.; SHERIDAN RADIOLOGY SERVICES OF PINELLAS, INC.; LABORATORY CORPORATION OF AMERICA; and LABORATORY CORPORATION OF AMERICA HOLDINGS, Appellees.
FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE REHEARING MOTION AND, IF
from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; Mark R. Wolfe
and Cheryl K. Thomas, Judges.
Andrew Meyer of J. Andrew Meyer, P.A., Redington Beach; and
Christa L. Collins of Harmon Parker, P.A., Tampa, for
N. Eisenberg and Jennifer T. Williams of Cozen O'Connor,
Miami, for Appellee Sheridan Healthcare, Inc.
S. Johnson and Scott W. Anderson of Johnson Daboll Anderson,
PLLC, Tampa, for Appellee Sheridan Radiology Services of
A. Licko and James L. VanLandingham of Hogan Lovells US, LLP,
Miami; and Steven F. Barley of Hogan Lovells US, LLP,
Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees Laboratory Corporation of
America and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings.
KHOUZAM, CHIEF JUDGE.
Davis filed two separate actions under section 559.77(1),
Florida Statutes (2014), of the Florida Consumer Collection
Practices Act (FCCPA). She alleged that, as an injured
employee under chapter 440, Florida Statutes (2014), the
Workers' Compensation Law (WCL), two medical service
providers illegally attempted to collect money from her. The
courts below dismissed her actions, finding that because the
WCL grants exclusive jurisdiction over any matter concerning
reimbursement to the Florida Department of Financial
Services, she is precluded from filing her claims under the
FCCPA. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse both
dismissals and hold that the WCL does not preclude
Davis's claims filed against her workers'
compensation medical providers under section 559.77(1) of the
was injured in the course of her employment in December 2013
and applied for workers' compensation benefits. As part
of these benefits, she had a preoperative chest x-ray taken
in October 2014 by Sheridan Radiology Services of Pinellas,
Inc., a subsidiary of Sheridan Healthcare, Inc.
(collectively, Sheridan). In her complaint, Davis alleged
that Sheridan knew she was a workers' compensation
patient and thus not responsible for paying the x-ray fees.
Despite this knowledge, Sheridan sent Davis a bill in April
2015, demanding payment for the October 2014 x-ray. Over a
month later, in June 2015, Davis received another bill, this
time from a collection agency. In response, Davis's
workers' compensation carrier, Commercial Risk
Management, Inc., contacted Sheridan by telephone and by
letter. In both communications, the carrier informed Sheridan
that Davis was not the party responsible for payment and
warned that billing Davis was a violation of the WCL. Despite
this warning, Sheridan sent yet another bill to Davis in July
2015. In response to this third demand for payment, Davis
filed suit against Sheridan in circuit court. Her amended
complaint alleges violations of the FCCPA, section 559.72(9),
for attempting to collect an illegitimate debt, and section
559.72(5), for disclosing false information to a collection
second set of defendants in this consolidated case,
Laboratory Corporation of America and Laboratory Corporation
of America Holdings (collectively, Labcorp), also provided
medical testing in connection with Davis's work injury.
Davis alleges that, like Sheridan, Labcorp billed her twice
for an illegitimate debt, once in May 2014 and again in
September 2014. She therefore filed a separate FCCPA claim
against Labcorp for violations of section 559.72(9).
period of complex litigation in both lawsuits, Sheridan and
Labcorp moved for judgments on the pleadings. They argued
that Davis's FCCPA claims depend on her showing an
illegitimate debt, and the law determining the legitimacy of
that debt is the WCL. Section 440.13(11)(c) grants exclusive
jurisdiction to the Department of Financial Services over
"any matters concerning reimbursement." Since
Davis's FCCPA claims are actually matters concerning
reimbursement of Sheridan and Labcorp, her workers'
compensation medical providers, they argued that the circuit
court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear her FCCPA
claims. The courts below agreed and dismissed the claims.
This consolidated appeal follows.
parties present two interpretations of the interaction
between the WCL and the FCCPA. Sheridan and Labcorp contend
that the WCL precludes Davis's FCCPA claims against
workers' compensation medical providers. Davis, on the
other hand, argues that the WCL's grant of exclusive
jurisdiction to a state agency over "matters concerning
reimbursement" does not abrogate the FCCPA. In resolving
this question, we look to legislative intent, "the
polestar that guides a court's statutory construction
analysis." Knowles v. Beverly Enters.-Fla.,
Inc., 898 So.2d 1, 5 (Fla. 2004).
determine the legislative intent behind a statute, a court
must first examine the plain meaning of the statute's
text. "[T]he statute's text is the most reliable and
authoritative expression of the Legislature's
intent." Fla. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co. v. Cox,
967 So.2d 815, 820 (Fla. 2007) (quoting V.K.E. v.
State, 934 So.2d 1276, 1286 (Fla. 2006) (Cantero, J.,
dissenting)). "If the plain meaning of the language is
clear and unambiguous, then the Court need not delve into
principles of statutory construction unless that meaning
leads to a result that is either unreasonable or clearly
contrary to legislative intent." Polite v.
State, 973 So.2d 1107, 1111 (Fla. 2007); see also
Dep't of Children & Family Servs. v. P.E., 14
So.3d 228, 234 (Fla. 2009).
plain language of the WCL states that the Department of
Financial Services "has exclusive jurisdiction to decide
any matters concerning reimbursement, to resolve any
overutilization dispute under subsection (7), and to decide
any question concerning overutilization under subsection (8),
which question or dispute arises after January 1, 1994."
§ 440.13(11)(c) (emphasis added). On the other hand, the
FCCPA creates "a civil action against a person violating
the provisions of s. 559.72." § 559.77(1). And
section 559.72 states that "[i]n collecting consumer
debts, no person shall . . . [c]laim, attempt, or
threaten to enforce a debt when such person knows that the
debt is not legitimate, or assert the existence of some other
legal right when such person knows that the right does not
exist." § 559.72(9) (emphasis added). The section
also contains a similar prohibition against
"[d]isclos[ing] to a person other than the debtor or her
or his family information affecting the debtor's
reputation . . . with knowledge or reason to know that the
other person does not have a legitimate business need for the
information or that the information is false." §
first note that the terms "reimbursement" and
"collection" do not mean the same thing. To
"reimburse" means to "repay" or "to
make restoration or payment of an equivalent to."
visited Apr. 25, 2019). The term is often synonymous with
indemnification and is typically used to express repayment by
a third party not directly involved in a transaction.
See Reimbursement, Black's Law
Dictionary (11th ed. 2019); see also
Indemnify, Black's Law Dictionary (11th
ed. 2019). For example, if John does not have cash at
lunchtime and Jane purchases a ten-dollar sandwich for him
from a vendor, John reimburses Jane when he pays her the ten
dollars she spent on his behalf. Jane does not
reimburse the vendor when she buys the sandwich, nor does she
reimburse the vendor if she instead buys the sandwich on
credit and pays for it next week. Reimbursement thus involves
more than two parties.
other hand, to "collect" means "to gather or
exact" or "to claim as due and receive payment
for." Collect, Merriam-Webster.com
visited Apr. 25, 2019). If John fails to pay Jane back for
his sandwich, Jane attempts to collect the debt when she does
something-writes a letter, sends an email, makes a phone
call-to demand that John pay her. The collection of the debt
is Jane's demand and receipt of ten dollars from John.
Similarly, if Jane fails to pay the vendor for the sandwich,
the vendor's pursuit of that payment would also
constitute collection activity. Thus, collection is not the
same concept or type of activity as reimbursement, even if a
transaction sometimes involves both.
the ordinary meanings of the two terms to the statutory
sections at issue here, it becomes clear that Davis's
FCCPA claims against illegal "collection" practices
are not "matters concerning reimbursement." To
mirror the Jane, John, and vendor example, Davis's
compensation carrier, Commercial Risk Management, Inc., is
responsible for providing Davis's medical services.
Sheridan and Labcorp provided those medical services on
behalf of Commercial Risk Management. It follows that the
only party who can reimburse Sheridan and Labcorp is
Commercial Risk Management. Indeed, section 440.13(13)(a)
provides that "[a] health care provider may not collect
or receive a fee from an injured employee within this state,
except as otherwise provided by this chapter." Thus,
claims that Sheridan and Labcorp have engaged in unlawful
practices to "collect" consumer debts from Davis
under the FCCPA are not "matters concerning
reimbursement" committed to the exclusive jurisdiction
of the Department of Financial Services under section
440.13(11)(c). Rather, "reimbursement" under
section 440.13(11)(c) in this context involves Commercial
Risk Management making Sheridan and LabCorp whole for
services they rendered to Davis. In contrast,
"collecting" under the FCCPA involves the separate
and distinct conduct of Sheridan or LabCorp making demands
against a consumer for payment of charges they claim to be
due for those services. Different parties as well as
different kinds of activity are involved.
dissent appears to conflate "reimbursement" and
"collection" to conclude that the phrase
"matters concerning reimbursement" in section
440.13(11)(c) unambiguously embraces collecting a consumer
debt when that debt is a charge covered by the WCL. However,
the dissent reaches this result merely by asserting that the
statute unambiguously supports its interpretation and without
discussing the meaning of the relevant statutory terms.
Moreover, to the extent that the dissent may have based its
conclusion on the "matters concerning" language,
that language does not change the result. The term
"concerning" means "regarding" or
"relating to." Concerning,
https://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary /concerning (last
visited Apr. 25, 2019). Because reimbursement and collection