Gill v. USX Corp.

Decision Date06 November 1991
Docket NumberNo. 90-1797,90-1797
Citation588 So.2d 1035
PartiesHoward GILL, Appellant, v. USX CORPORATION and Alexsis, Inc., Appellee. 588 So.2d 1035, 16 Fla. L. Week. D2826
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Bill McCabe, of Shepherd, McCabe & Cooley, Longwood, for appellant.

Charles E. Bentley and Sherri L. Hussey, of Holland & Knight, Lakeland, for appellee.

ERVIN, Judge.

Appellant Howard Gill appeals an order denying him wage-loss (WL) benefits between April 20, 1988 and January 10, 1990. Gill first asserts the judge of compensation claims (JCC) erred in denying his request for WL benefits between April 20, 1988 and November 10, 1988, during which time his primary treating physician had issued statements that claimant was to remain off work. Gill also claims the JCC erred in denying benefits between November 11, 1988 and January 10, 1990, because the employer/carrier (E/C) did not provide him with job-search or rehabilitation assistance. We reverse as to both issues and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Gill was injured when he forcefully hyperextended his left foot on July 11, 1985, while working as a materials unloader for the employer, U.S. Agri-Chemicals, Inc., a division of USX Corporation. He has been treated primarily by orthopedist Dr. Horst Von Paleske, who diagnosed Gill's condition as post-traumatic neurodystrophy, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Dr. Von Paleske testified that claimant reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) on February 20, 1987, with an eight percent permanent partial impairment of his ankle.

In a previous appeal, Gill v. U.S. Agri-Chemicals, 561 So.2d 371, 372 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), we affirmed the JCC's denial of WL benefits through April 19, 1988, concluding that "claimant had not shown the requisite causal connection between a physical limitation resulting from the industrial injury and any lost wages after the date of maximum medical improvement." We reversed only for recalculation of claimant's average weekly wage. We are now being asked to consider Gill's request for WL benefits for the subsequent periods not addressed in that opinion.

On May 11, 1988, Dr. Von Paleske wrote a work-restriction slip for Gill's employer, stating that claimant "will be off work until seen again in four months." He wrote another on August 11, 1988, advising that claimant "will be off work for three more months." In a report also dated August 11, 1988, Dr. Von Paleske commented that claimant was unable to "perform anything at all" because of severe pain in his left foot and ankle, and that his left foot and lower leg were "bluish reddish discolored." At the final hearing, Dr. Von Paleske testified that Gill had been capable of performing light-duty work since he reached MMI on February 20, 1987, and that he prepared the work-restriction notes quoted above only to excuse claimant from having to engage in manual labor with the employer. He could not remember, however, whether he actually told Gill that he could do only light or sedentary work, and he made no record in his office notes that he had actually so advised the claimant until November 10, 1988.

After considering the above evidence, we reverse that part of the final order denying Gill WL benefits between April 20, 1988 and November 10, 1988. There is simply nothing in the record suggesting that Dr. Von Paleske ever informed Gill that he could engage in light-duty or sedentary work during this period. See Croft v. Donna Jean Packing Co., 579 So.2d 146, 148 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) (even if physician testifies that claimant could have worked at an earlier time, the evidence must establish that claimant was so informed or that she should have known she was released to work). Accord, Scott v. Container Corp. of Am., 559 So.2d 399, 401 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990) (argument that claimant failed to conduct adequate work search is immaterial when there was no evidence that physician told claimant to return to work). We have previously stated that "a doctor's communication concerning claimant's release to work must be clear and unequivocal." Lerman v. Broward County Bd. of County Comm'rs, 555 So.2d 419, 423 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989). In the case at bar, there is no evidence of any communication that would meet this exacting standard. Accordingly, we reverse that portion of the order denying appellant's claim for WL benefits for the period from April 20, 1988 to November 10, 1988, and direct that such benefits be awarded during the above interval.

We also decide that the JCC's determination that Gill did not conduct a good-faith job search between November 20, 1988 and January 10, 1990 is not by itself dispositive of the issue whether he is entitled to WL benefits during this period. It is undisputed that between May 1988 and February 1989, claimant contacted the same four prospective employers, and thereafter contacted one new employer every three or four months. On each job-search form, Gill indicated that these employers could not use a person with his type of injury and/or that he could not pass the required physical examination.

Although a JCC may, under appropriate circumstances, consider that by limiting his or her contacts to a small number of prospective employers, a claimant did not conduct an adequate work search, the adequacy vel non of a work search is only one of a number of criteria which should be considered by a judge in determining a claimant's entitlement to WL benefits. Other relevant factors include the claimant's age, his or her industrial history, the extent of the physical impairment together with any physical limitations, and his or her educational background. Grace v. Collier Co. School Bd., 552 So.2d 961, 964 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989). In addition to the these factors, the judge in the instant case should have specifically considered both the claimant's receipt of Social Security disability benefits during the period in question and the...

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5 cases
  • Borges v. Osceola Farms Co.
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • February 21, 1995 experience, work record, and diligence. Edwards v. Caulfield, 560 So.2d 364, 375 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). Accord Gill v. USX Corp., 588 So.2d 1035, 1037-38 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) (adequacy of work search is just one factor in determination of benefits; other factors include age, education, wo......
  • Roll v. Sebastian Inlet
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • December 1, 1992
    ...the employer should have assisted claimant if, in fact, it became apparent that he was making unrealistic contacts. Gill v. USX Corp., 588 So.2d 1035 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991). As we stated in A failure or refusal of the E/C to participate in the process of assisting claimant to find work or reha......
  • Hillsborough County School Bd. v. Ward, 1D04-5042.
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • September 23, 2005
    ...than age 65, and is under a disability. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1).3 Case law supports our interpretation. See Gill v. USX Corp., 588 So.2d 1035, 1037-38 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991) ("In regard to his eligibility for Social Security disability benefits the Social Security Act requires in part that t......
  • Dalzell v. Mercy Hosp.
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • June 25, 1997
    ...benefits in his order, he did not discuss this as a factor in his decision to deny PTD benefits, contrary to Gill v. USX Corp., 588 So.2d 1035, 1038 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991), where we said that such should be a consideration "in the JCC's evaluation of claimant's ability to return to work." Thus......
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