Watson v. Freeman Decorating Co., AW-350

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; ERVIN
Citation455 So.2d 1097
PartiesWorthy WATSON, Appellant, v. FREEMAN DECORATING CO. and Hartford Insurance Group, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. AW-350,AW-350
Decision Date17 September 1984

Ronald B. Gilbert, Miami, for appellant.

Mark L. Zientz of Williams & Zientz, Coral Gables, for appellees.


In this workers' compensation proceeding the deputy commissioner denied payment of claimant's hospital and doctor bills, finding no good cause shown for the failure to file reports timely as required by Section 440.13(1), Florida Statutes (1981). We reverse.

On October 5, 1981, claimant was working as a warehouseman for Freeman Decorating Company. As claimant stacked tables, he experienced chest pains and stopped working. After resting a few minutes, he reported the incident to his foreman. The foreman told claimant to go to the hospital to have his pains checked, and directed one of the truck drivers to drive claimant to the hospital. Claimant testified that the decision to go to Palmetto General Hospital was not his--nor could he recall whether the foreman expressly directed that he be taken to Palmetto General. Dr. Suarez-Pupo, a specialist in internal medicine and cardiology, was covering the emergency room when claimant was brought in with complaints of pain from the low chest area up to the mid anterior chest. Claimant told Dr. Suarez-Pupo that he had been lifting items at work. On receipt of this information, Dr. Suarez-Pupo ordered a complete series of tests to rule out the possibility of a heart attack. Dr. Suarez-Pupo testified that he performed no tests that were not indicated by claimant's symptoms and the history presented by claimant when he was admitted. Claimant's industrial injury was diagnosed as muscle strain which produced chest pain from the chest wall. Claimant was admitted to the hospital on October 5, 1981, and was discharged on October 7, 1981. On October 6, claimant called his foreman and told him in general terms about the care he was receiving. Claimant's hospital discharge was on a Thursday, and he returned to work the following Monday.

On October 22, 1981, Dr. Suarez-Pupo submitted a bill for his services. The employer/carrier controverted on the ground that Dr. Suarez-Pupo had not complied with the reporting requirement of Section 440.13(1). Two to three weeks after claimant's discharge, he received a statement from the hospital. This statement was dated October 10, 1981. Claimant took the statement to the person at Freeman Decorating Company, employer, charged with the responsibility of processing insurance forms, and was told by her that the appropriate forms would be filled out. After claimant received a letter from the carrier advising that the carrier would not pay the hospital bill, claimant filled out the forms and filed for payment himself. The deputy commissioner found that claimant had suffered a compensable injury but denied payment of the medical bills on the grounds that the medical services were provided without the knowledge or authorization of the employer/carrier, and neither the doctor nor the hospital complied with the reporting requirement of Section 440.13(1), with which no good cause shown for failure to so comply.

The employer/carrier argue that the statute relieves them of the obligation to pay the bill of the health care providers because they failed to file timely reports with the employer. The consequences of sustaining the employer/carrier's position would, paradoxically, place the obligation on the injured worker to pay for medical expenses sustained by him as a result of an industrial injury, notwithstanding his lack of control over the treating physician's tardy conduct.

The legislature, however, has recognized the harshness of what might result if an inflexible rule were applied in all cases disallowing the payment of medical bills caused by a technical violation of the statute. Section 440.13(1) further provides that the deputy may excuse for good cause the failure of the physician to furnish the report during the period involved. We must now determine whether good cause was established to excuse such failure.

We note at the outset that we reject the deputy commissioner's finding that Palmetto General Hospital failed to comply with the reporting requirement of Section 440.13(1). A hospital representative testified that the billing code indicated the statement was mailed in the ordinary course of business. The record reflects the statement is dated October 10, 1981, which places it within the ten-day statutory reporting period. There is a general presumption that the ordinary course of business has been followed, absent a showing to the contrary. Brown v. Giffen Industries, Inc., 281 So.2d 897 (Fla.1973); Milros-Sans Souci, Inc. v. Dade County, 296 So.2d 545, 548 (Fla. 3d DCA 1974). The employer/carrier here offered no such contrary showing.

In the case at bar, there are two possible explanations for Dr. Suarez-Pupo's failure to timely file reports as required by Section 440.13(1). First, Dr. Suarez-Pupo testified that this case was his first experience with workers' compensation claims and billing. Second, there was some confusion on Dr. Suarez-Pupo's part over where he should send his bill. On October 22, 1981, Dr. Suarez-Pupo billed Bankers Insurance for medical services rendered to claimant, rather than the carrier, Hartford. No explanation was advanced that would explain why the doctor sent his bill to the wrong insurer. However, failure to timely file Section 440.13(1) reports has been excused when the record demonstrates confusion on the part of physicians over where they should send their bills, and the carrier was not hindered in evaluation of the claim by the absence of prompt formal reports. Florida Sod Co. v. Myers, 432 So.2d 645 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983). Ordinarily, the reason advanced by the health care provider is the most relevant evidence in reaching a decision as to whether or not good cause applies. See, e.g., Jack Eckerd Corp. v. Coker, 411 So.2d 1026, 1028 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982); Walt Disney World v. Schiebel, 414 So.2d 602, 603 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982); Cedars of Lebanon Health Care v. Summerset, 409 So.2d 185 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982); Vannice Construction Co. v. Silverman, 419 So.2d 369 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982). Other cases, however, consider the conduct of the employer as the more determinative evidence in resolving a good cause question. See, e.g., Willard Kaufman Co. v. Rawlings, 414 So.2d 641 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982); Commercial Carrier Corp. v. Fox, 400 So.2d 154 (Fla. 1st DCA 1981).

Because the cases have not clearly defined which party bears the burden of establishing good cause, we think it first necessary to resolve that question. As was observed by the Florida Supreme Court in Corporate Group Service, Inc. v. Lymberis, 146 So.2d 745, 747 (Fla.1962), the statute itself "is silent about the manner in which and the person by whom the [good cause] showing should be made." Nevertheless, we conclude, because the burden is upon the claimant to establish his injury and the causal connection between the injury and the employment, Martin v. Board...

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11 cases
  • Fuchs Baking Co. v. Estate of Szlosek, AY-231
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 2 Abril 1985
    ...had the ability to obtain, if it wished, any material information concerning the employee's condition." Watson v. Freeman Decorating Co., 455 So.2d 1097 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984). See also Willard Kaufman Co. v. Rawlings, 414 So.2d 641 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982); and Ranch House v. Jackson, IRC 2-3824, ......
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    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 30 Agosto 2004
    ...a presumption that Memorial had given Tabb a NICA brochure at her pre-registration, the ALJ relied on Watson v. Freeman Decorating Co., 455 So.2d 1097 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984). As Tabb points out, however, the Watson case involved the mailing and receipt of a letter: A hospital representative te......
  • Lovell Bros., Inc. v. Kittles, s. BN-11
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 8 Diciembre 1987
    ...good cause shown or waiver, it was not error for the deputy commissioner to so rule in this case. See Watson v. Freeman Decorating Co., 455 So.2d 1097 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984); Willard Kaufman Co. v. Rawlings, 414 So.2d 641 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982). The peculiar facts of this case distinguish it from......
  • Pupo v. City of Hialeah, 1D11–6440.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 9 Julio 2012
    ...(holding E/C did not rebut presumption that it received properly [91 So.3d 927]mailed notice); and Watson v. Freeman Decorating Co., 455 So.2d 1097, 1099 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984) (“There is a general presumption that the ordinary course of business has been followed, absent a showing to the cont......
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