We are discussing a case in Florida that challenges the constitutionality of the state’s workers’ compensation system as the “sole remedy” for injured employees. The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, even though the appellate court said the appellees had no case. The problem was not that the workers’ advocacy organizations appealing the trial court’s decision had failed to make persuasive arguments; rather, the problem was that the appellees had no business being involved in a nonexistent controversy.
Because the ruling relies on technical points, it’s important to review some lawsuit basics. In our last post, we said that the point of a lawsuit is to settle a disagreement that has disadvantaged one of the parties. Personal injury lawsuits are good examples of how this works. You fall and hurt yourself on your neighbor’s icy sidewalk. You incur medical expenses as a result. Your neighbor refuses to pay, so you take him to court. The court will decide whether your neighbor was at fault and, if he was, how much he should pay you to make up for it.
We left off with a question: What happens if your neighbor takes you to the hospital and pays all of the expenses associated with your injury? Can you still sue him?
Mootness. You can always file a complaint, but it wouldn’t go far. You have not suffered any damages. Your neighbor has paid the bills. You may be angry, but the court can’t help with that. If the matter is resolved, then, the controversy is in the past — it is moot.
The court won’t get involved in purely hypothetical questions. There must be a real case or controversy that involves the plaintiff and the defendant and that the parties have not settled. In a workers’ compensation case, an appeal would be moot if the worker and employer settled before the court heard the appeal.
These are flaws the court of appeal found with the case we are discussing. We’ll get into the specifics in our next post.
Source: Business Insurance, “Exclusive remedy litigation heads to Florida Supreme Court,” Stephanie Goldberg, July 15, 2015