final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
of Accident: November 24, 2016.
appeal from an order of the Judge of Compensation Claims.
Ralph J. Humphries, Judge.
E. DeGuzman and John J. Rahaim II, of Law Office of John J.
Rahaim, II, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellant.
Michael Arington of Eraclides, Gelman, Hall Indek, Goodman,
Waters & Traverso, Jacksonville, for Appellee.
workers' compensation case, Claimant, Eugene McDonald,
appeals an order of the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC)
denying compensability of his coronary artery disease (CAD)
pursuant to the presumption of occupational causation created
by section 112.18, Florida Statutes. As explained below,
because the JCC put the burden of proof regarding the
"trigger" on the wrong party, we reverse.
a law enforcement officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's
Office, was on duty on Thanksgiving Day, 2016. While on duty,
he attended a voluntary brunch held at his unit's
substation, then resumed his patrol duties. He testified that
shortly after the brunch, and again at work on Friday, he
experienced what he thought was indigestion. On Saturday,
Claimant was off duty, but his pain worsened, so his wife
took him to the hospital. Doctors at the hospital diagnosed a
heart attack (myocardial infarction), and hospitalized him
for five days. The medical evidence established that Claimant
had CAD, which ultimately led to a plaque rupture, and his
subsequent myocardial infarction.
Claimant filed a petition for benefits seeking compensability
of his CAD as the industrial injury. The Employer/Carrier
(E/C) expressly denied compensability of the CAD.
ensuing litigation, Claimant produced an opinion from his
independent medical examiner, Dr. Mathias, that the cause of
his CAD could not be determined. The E/C, in turn, relied on
the opinion of the authorized treating provider, Dr.
Dietzius, that the cause of the CAD was a combination of
appointed an expert medical advisor, Dr. Borzak, who opined
that "the cause of the event was the presence of
hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, diabetes and age"
and that those non-occupational risk factors "were
sufficiently strong in this case to reach the standard of
more likely than not resulting in his coronary event."
Dr. Borzak added that "[w]hile the onset of symptoms was
on the job, there is no clear or identifiable triggering
final order, the JCC found that Claimant met his burden to
prove the statutory criteria entitling him to the presumption
of compensability of his CAD, because he proved that he was a
member of a protected class, that his "coronary artery
disease resulting in a myocardial infarction" qualifies
as "heart disease" that could be covered by the
presumption, that his pre-employment physical showed no
evidence of heart disease, and that he sustained disability
based on his hospitalization following the heart attack
caused by his CAD. Thus, the JCC explained, because Claimant
relied solely on the presumption to establish compensability,
the E/C's burden-to rebut and attempt to overcome the
presumption-was to present at least competent, substantial
evidence that Claimant's CAD resulted from
the JCC ascertained that Dr. Borzak had opined that
Claimant's CAD resulted from wholly non-occupational
causes, the JCC embarked on an analysis of whether there was
a "trigger" causing Claimant's heart attack
and, if so, whether that trigger was occupational or
non-occupational; as authority, the JCC cited City of
Jacksonville v. Ratliff, 217 So.3d 183 (Fla. 1st DCA