Court Rules Florida Workers’ Comp Rate Hike to Remain, For Now

Florida’s workers’ compensation rate increase of 14.5 percent will remain in effect while a Florida appeals court reviews a legal challenge to the state’s recent ratemaking process.

The First District Court of Appeals granted an extension to the stay issued on Nov. 28 when the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) filed its notice of appeal to Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers’ order halting the rate increase, which took effect Dec. 1.

Gievers’ ruling came in the case of Fee v. National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI)/Office. The challenge to the rate increase was brought by James Fee, a Miami attorney who represents injured workers. Fee claimed that NCCI was in violation of Florida’s Sunshine Laws by holding “multiple, non-public, secret meetings” internally and with the OIR over the rates.

The 14.5 percent overall combined statewide average rate increase was approved by OIR on Oct. 5, 2016. NCCI claims it has complied with applicable open meeting and other Sunshine Laws on transparency and noted after the judge’s ruling that it would appeal.

NCCI and OIR filed motions on Dec. 5 and Dec. 8, respectively, seeking to stay the order on appeal and also granted their request to expedite the appeal process. In the Dec. 12 ruling, the appeals court ordered that the record on appeal must be filed on or before Dec. 30, 2016, and the initial briefs are due on or before Jan. 11, 2017. The answer brief must be filed no later than Jan. 23, 2017 and the reply brief will be due no later than Feb. 2, 2017.

NCCI expressed satisfaction that with the court’s decision.

“We continue to believe that NCCI, Commissioner Altmaier, and the Office of Insurance Regulation have fully complied with the law. NCCI looks forward to presenting its case to the Appellate Court,” NCCI said.