Begley's Cleaning Service v. Costa, No. 1D04-4087.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtKahn
PartiesBEGLEY'S CLEANING SERVICE and Nationwide Insurance Company, Appellants, v. Julio COSTA, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 1D04-4087.
Decision Date10 November 2005
913 So.2d 1244
BEGLEY'S CLEANING SERVICE and Nationwide Insurance Company, Appellants,
v.
Julio COSTA, Appellee.
No. 1D04-4087.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.
November 10, 2005.

Kimberly A. Hill of Conroy, Simberg, Ganon, Krevans & Abel, P.A., Hollywood, for Appellants.

Monte R. Shoemaker and Kellye A. Shoemaker, Altamonte Springs, for Appellee.

KAHN, C.J.


In this workers' compensation case, the E/C appeal a Summary Final Order in which the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) found them estopped to deny compensability of the claimant's accident. Because we conclude the JCC erred in this determination, we reverse the order.

Page 1245

Background

On August 13, 2003, the claimant, Julio Costa, suffered an injury at work when he fell to the ground while trimming a palm tree. On September 19, 2003, the E/C sent Costa the following letter:

In accordance with the Florida Workers Compensation Law, effective January 1, 1994, the Employer/Carrier may make "good faith" payments, subject to further investigation, on any claim or benefit requested by an injured worker.

Please be advised that we are paying the benefits you requested in "good faith," but reserve the right to deny these benefits, after further investigation, within 120 days of the date of this letter, if the claim or benefit is determined not to be compensable.

Despite this letter, the E/C never paid any indemnity or medical benefits.

On December 18, 2003, Costa filed a petition for benefits. On January 7, 2004, the E/C filed a form DWC-12 denying benefits, stating "ENTIRE CLAIM DENIED." Costa filed a Motion for Entry of a Summary Final Order pursuant to Florida Administrative Code Rule 60Q-6.120(1).* In the motion, Costa asserted that the E/C had taken no action during the 120-day period and were, therefore, required to accept compensability of the accident and injuries. The E/C, in response, filed a Memorandum of Law, arguing that they had "timely denied the compensability of this alleged accident and the 120 day rule never began to toll [sic]." The parties agreed to the entry of a summary final order in this matter.

On August 12, 2004, the JCC rendered the Summary Final Order. In this order, the JCC quoted provisions in sections 440.20(2) and 440.20(4), Florida Statutes (2002). The JCC cited Hutchinson v. Lykes Smithfield Packing, 870 So.2d 144 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004), explained that the E/C had "exercised none of the 3 options announced by the court in Hutchinson," and concluded that the E/C "is obligated and required to accept the compensability of the Employee's accident and his injuries." The E/C have appealed and argue that the JCC erred in finding them estopped from denying benefits based on the failure to deny within 120 days, where they never provided any medical or indemnity benefits.

Analysis

The E/C rely heavily on Bussey v. Wal-Mart Store # 725, 867 So.2d 542 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004). Costa would distinguish Bussey, asserting that the E/C there did not elect to "pay and investigate." The parties thus disagree over the effect of the E/C sending a "120-day letter" following

Page 1246

an injury but not paying any benefits or compensation. Our standard of review is de novo. See, e.g., Morris v. Dollar Tree Store, 869 So.2d 704, 705 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004) ("Because the JCC's interpretation is one of law, our review standard is de novo."); Lanham v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot., 868 So.2d 561, 562 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004) ("Because the decision below turns on an interpretation of law, our review standard is de novo."); Castleberry v. Edward M. Chadbourne, Inc., 810 So.2d 1028, 1029 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) ("Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, we review this case de novo.").

The 120-day "pay and investigate" provision is contained in section 440.20(4), Florida Statutes, and the version applicable at the time of Costa's accident provides:

If the carrier is...

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3 practice notes
  • Thomas v. Eckerd Drugs, No. 1D07-5905.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 15, 2008
    ...of the issues raised by the petition, and there are no genuine issues of material fact. See id.; Begley's Cleaning Serv. v. Costa, 913 So.2d 1244, 1245 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). A JCC shall review the pleadings and depositions, together with affidavits, if any, to determine whether there are any......
  • Smith v. Time Customer Servs. & Travelers, No. 1D12–2398.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 31, 2013
    ...of the issues raised by the petition, and there are no genuine issues of material fact. See id.; Begley's Cleaning Serv. v. Costa, 913 So.2d 1244, 1245 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). A JCC shall review the pleadings and depositions, together with affidavits, if any, to determine whether there are any......
  • Long John Silver's/Yum! v. Holcombe, No. 1D04-5639.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 17, 2006
    ...10, 2003 letter, the 120-day pay and investigate letter had no effect under these circumstances. Begley's Cleaning Serv. v. Costa, 913 So.2d 1244 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). Although the E/C provided benefits subsequent to the June 1, 2004 notice of denial, these benefits were provided pursuant to......
3 cases
  • Thomas v. Eckerd Drugs, No. 1D07-5905.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 15, 2008
    ...of the issues raised by the petition, and there are no genuine issues of material fact. See id.; Begley's Cleaning Serv. v. Costa, 913 So.2d 1244, 1245 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). A JCC shall review the pleadings and depositions, together with affidavits, if any, to determine whether there are any......
  • Smith v. Time Customer Servs. & Travelers, No. 1D12–2398.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • January 31, 2013
    ...of the issues raised by the petition, and there are no genuine issues of material fact. See id.; Begley's Cleaning Serv. v. Costa, 913 So.2d 1244, 1245 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). A JCC shall review the pleadings and depositions, together with affidavits, if any, to determine whether there are any......
  • Long John Silver's/Yum! v. Holcombe, No. 1D04-5639.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 17, 2006
    ...10, 2003 letter, the 120-day pay and investigate letter had no effect under these circumstances. Begley's Cleaning Serv. v. Costa, 913 So.2d 1244 (Fla. 1st DCA 2005). Although the E/C provided benefits subsequent to the June 1, 2004 notice of denial, these benefits were provided pursuant to......

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