Williams v. City of Orlando/City of Orlando Risk Management

The First District Court of Appeal (First DCA) recently issued their Williams v. City of Orlando / City of Orlando Risk Management decision, wherein they addressed the issue of compensability of hypertension.

In this case, the Claimant appealed an Order of the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denying compensability of her hypertension on the ground that she failed to establish eligibility to the statutory presumption, found in section 112.18, Florida Statutes (2010). Specifically, the JCC found that the Claimant had not established the “covered condition” prong of the statute.

In so finding, the JCC, relying upon Bivens v. City of Lakeland, found that the Claimant failed to establish that her hypertension was “arterial or cardiovascular.”  This, despite the fact that the Claimant, having been diagnosed with “essential” hypertension, introduced unrefuted medical opinion testimony that “essential” hypertension is “the same thing” and “the same condition” as arterial hypertension. The JCC rejected this testimony, finding that same contravened the First DCA’s holding in Bivens.

The Court reversed the JCC’s denial of compensability. It noted that Bivens does not hold as a matter of law that “essential” hypertension is not a covered condition as contemplated by the presumption statute. Rather, a claimant who has been diagnosed with same must establish (generally by medical testimony) that his/her essential hypertension is arterial or cardiovascular in nature. The claimant in Bivens did not offer such evidence. In contrast, the claimant below did by way of physician testimony; thus, the order denying compensability was reversed and remanded.

This decision is significant in that it clarifies any confusion regarding the compensability of hypertension resulting from Bivens. Again, essential hypertension can certainly be compensable; first, however, the claimant must introduce evidence establishing that his/her essential hypertension is arterial or cardiovascular in nature. Based upon our experience with cardiologists, most would agree, and testify to same.

We would point out that this decision is not yet final, as both parties have 15 days from the June 13, 2012 date of issuance to move for a rehearing.