Medical evidence allows sheriff's office to overcome 'firefighter's presumption'
Punsky v. Clay County Sheriff's Office, No. 1D07-3901 (Fla. 1st Dist. Ct. App. 03/06/09).
The Florida District Court of Appeal upheld a judge of compensation claim's order denying benefits to a deputy sheriff. The employer successfully rebutted the so-called "firefighter's presumption."
What it means:
Where the claimant does not present any additional evidence or arguments to support the "firefighter's presumption" that his injury was work-related, the employer can rebut the presumption with evidence of nonwork-related causation. A higher standard of evidence does not apply where the claimant fails to present any other evidence.
Summary: The claimant, a deputy sheriff, suffered a heart attack while asleep. He filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, alleging that stress from his job caused the heart attack and that he was entitled to invoke the "firefighter's presumption" that his heart attack occurred in the line of duty.
The medical evidence unanimously supported a finding that the claimant's heart attack was facilitated and, more likely than not, caused by combined familial hyperlipidemia. CFH results from a genetic predisposition that affects the body's ability to handle cholesterol. The Court of Appeal ruled that competent, substantial evidence supported the JCC's alternative ruling that the presumption did not apply and that the employer presented evidence of a preexisting condition and other risk factors.
The court explained that the presumption can be rebutted by competent evidence and does not require an elevated burden of proof.
In this case, the claimant only presented the presumption itself to support a work-related cause of his heart attack. The employer's doctor provided competent, substantial evidence of causation in testifying that CFH was the major contributing cause of the claimant's heart attack.
The court affirmed the order denying benefits to the claimant.
May 14, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications