Rule Nisi Enforcement Actions in Florida Workers' Compensation
This guide explains what a "rule nisi" proceeding is in the context of a Florida workers' compensation claim.
What Does "Rule Nisi" Mean?The word "nisi" by itself is Latin, and it means "unless, except, if not." "Rule Nisi," on the other hand, is a term used in American law. Barron's Law Dictionary defines Rule Nisi as a: "Procedure by which one party through an ex parte application or an order to show cause calls upon another to show cause why the relief set forth in the proposed order should not be made final by the court. If no cause is shown the court will enter an order rendering "absolute" [i.e., final] the relief, thereby requiring whatever was sought to be accomplished by the relief."
A more simple way to put that might be that a Rule Nisi is "an order that informs both parties to an action that a hearing will be held to determine or make a ruling on an issue."
What is a Rule Nisi used for?In the context of Florida's workers' compensation system, Rule Nisi is used as a tool to enforce compensation orders issued by the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC). The JCC does not have the inherent power to enforce his or her own orders. So, the Workers' Compensation Law instructs that, when the Employer or Carrier has failed to comply with an order from the JCC that awarded benefits, the Claimant (i.e., injured worker) can file a petition in circuit court to enforce the order. The petition will ask the court "to issue a rule nisi directing such employer or carrier to show cause why a writ of execution, or such other process as may be necessary to enforce the terms of such order, shall not be issued." The circuit court then has jurisdiction "to issue a writ of execution or such other process or final order as may be necessary to enforce the terms of such order" of the JCC.
Do I Need a Rule Nisi?You might need one if you have an open workers' compensation case in Florida, the JCC has issued an order for the E/C to provide certain benefits, the order is still valid, and the insurance company is not providing the benefits that the JCC has ordered them to provide. These benefits could include medical treatment, home modifications, aid and attendant care, wage replacement benefits (including permanent total disability benefits), and more. Enforcement by Rule Nisi can be a very powerful tool in securing overdue benefits from adjusters who simply don't care. Not all attorneys can or will handle rule nisi cases; so, even if you already have an attorney for your workers' comp case, an outside attorney might still be able to help you. If you feel that a Rule Nisi might be appropriate to your situation, you are welcome to contact the author of this guide regarding possible representation. If you are represented, you should suggest engaging outside counsel to your present attorney.
What if a Rule Nisi is Filed Against My Company?As with all legal claims, there are both substantive and procedural defenses to petitions for Rule Nisi relief. For example, the circuit court might not have jurisdiction to consider a petition, because the order in default is not yet "final" or is no longer "valid" for enforcement purposes. Sometimes, the benefit(s) ordered by the JCC simply cannot be enforced by the Rule Nisi procedure. This is a very technical area of law that is often misunderstood even by the judges. If you have any questions about a Rule Nisi that was filed against your company, you are welcome to contact the author of this guide regarding possible representation.