FL: RN with Hepatitis C wins workers comp.: court held last exposure rule did not apply.

Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Position:Legal Case Briefs for Nurses - Case overview

CASE FACTS: Zola Ann Ross worked as a Registered Nurse for Polk Count at Polk County General Hospital from 1981 to May of 1994. During her employment she was exposed to Hepatitis C. She was diagnosed with the condition in 1999, but did not become disabled until April 18, 2000. She filed a claim for Workers' Compensation benefits in 2002, when she was no longer employed by the County. Initially, the County contested Nurse Ross' claim on the grounds that she failed to file it in a timely manner. The judge of Compensation Claims ruled against the County. The First District Court affirmed the order, requiring the payment of benefits. However, the County filed suit seeking a determination of which of its insurance carriers, during the period from January 1, 1997, to January 1, 2002, was liable. Florida Mutual Insurance Trust (FMIT) provided coverage from October 1, 1993, to September 30, 1994. Fidelity from January 1, 1997 to January 1, 2002. The County did not indicate it preferred one carrier over another. Yet, it was clear that the County's financial liability was less if Fidelity was liable. The parties filed motions for summary judgment since the facts necessary to resolve the coverage dispute were not in dispute. Accordingly, the court entered a declaratory judgment holding Fidelity responsible for the entire claim. Fidelity appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Florida Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the lower court entering summary judgment in favor of FMIT and remanded the case back to the court with an order for the court to enter final summary judgment for Fidelity. Thus, the court required that the payment of Nurse Ross' Claim be made by FMIT. The court rejected FMIT's and the County's contention the last exposure rule only applied in cases involving long-term exposure to conditions that cumulatively result in a disease. The court held, inter alia, that while it is...

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