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Florida First DCA rules that petition for worker’s compensation benefits filed by a deceased worker’s personal representative related back to date of worker’s original petition

On August 19, 2021, in Estate of Ronald McKenzie v. HI Rise Crane Inc. et al, No. 1D20-3307, the Florida First DCA ruled that the personal representative of the estate of an injured workerwas entitled to have her petition for benefits (PFB) filed on the decedent’s behalf relate back to the date of previous PFBs the injured worker had filed prior to his death (the injured worker’s attorney had dismissed the worker’s PFBs shortly after his death). The Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) dismissed the personal representative’s PFB because it was filed more than two years after the injured worker knew or should have known that he had suffered a work-related injury. The First DCA disagreed with the dismissal, noting that although the personal representative filed the PFB before she was formally appointed to act as personal representative by the probate court, Fla. Stat. § 733.601 provides that a personal representative’s powers “relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed, occurring before appointment and beneficial to the estate, the same effect as those occurring after appointment.” Moreover, § 733.691A personal representative “may ratify and accept acts on behalf of the estate done by others when the acts would have been proper for a personal representative.” The First DCA concluded that the relation back applied not just to actions taken by the personal representative prior to her formal appointment but also to the injured worker’s filing of the PFBs prior to his death.