The Florida Supreme Court has issued a ruling in one of several cases that could have implications for the workers’ comp system in the state as a whole. In Morales v. Zenith Insurance Company, the widow of Santana Morales, who died in a work accident, agreed to a workers’ compensation settlement with the employer’s workers’ compensation and employer liability insurer, Zenith. That settlement included a release in which she agreed that the settlement would be her sole remedy.
However, Morales had also been pursuing a separate civil claim against Zenith under the employer liability portion of the policy, claiming that her husband’s death was due to negligence. Morales obtained a $9.25 million judgment in her favor, which Zenith refused to pay. The case was moved to federal court and the judgment was reversed, but on appeal, the Eleventh Circuit court said it was unclear if the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy in an employer liability policy effectively barred Morales from seeking additional damages in civil court. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the “exclusive remedy” in its decision. This case, along with the Padgett case in Florida, has received much attention from the carrier/employer community seeking to defend the stability of workers’ compensation system.
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Read the Supreme Court decision here.