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Robert J. Bend, Jr. v. Shamrock Services and Zenith Insurance Company

Case Conclusion Date: 02.28.2011

Practice Area: Workers compensation

Outcome: Robert will be entitled to Workers' Compensatin benefits. The First District Court of Appeal Reversed the Judge of Compensation Claims who denied workers' compensation benefits to Robert.

Description: On January 15, 2008, my client, Robert Bend, Jr., Claimant was involved in a high-speed automobile accident while driving a truck owned by the Employer (Amar Prakash doing business as Shamrock Services). As a result of the accident, he suffered full thickness burns on 70% of his body; he lost his dominant hand, an eye and an ear due to the burns; and was hospitalized for over one year while multiple skin grafts were performed. At the time of the accident, Claimant was en route to a painting job (contracted for by the Employer) at a post office in Cocoa Beach, Florida. After receiving notice of Claimant’s accident and discovering the multi-faceted nature of the Employer’s business -- which contrasted with the Employer’s answers to questions posed in the Employer’s application for insurance wherein the Employer described his business as a lawn maintenance service with five employees (and no independent contractors/subcontractors) -- Zenith cancelled the workers’ compensation policy. At the time of cancellation, the policy had been in effect for over three years. Zenith denied Claimant’s claims for workers’ compensation benefits on the basis that Claimant was not the Employer’s employee but, rather, an independent contractor. Additionally, Zenith asserted that Claimant should be denied recovery based on misrepresentations made by the Employer in the application process and/or based on the Employer’s failure to regularly submit documentation and reports to Zenith, as required by the Workers’ Compensation Law. At the Final Merit Hearing, the JCC voided the workers' compensation policy and ruled that Robert was not an employee despite finding that Robert was an independent contractor. Therefore, benefits were denied for Robert. On appeal the First DCA reversed the JCC and ruled that Robert was entitled to benefits based on his status as an employee and the policy was not voidable. Now, Robert will be eligible to obtain full benefits through workers' compensation.

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