Langham: It Has to Be on the Menu
Thursday, May 30, 2019 | 580 | 0 | min read
The Office of Judges of Compensation Claims clerks recently got an order to change the carrier on a particular case, from “AIG Claims” to “Commerce & Industry Insurance Co./AIG Claims.”
The problem is, we do not have that carrier registered. We have each of those two carriers registered.
The list of potential carriers is locked. The only way a new carrier is added to that list is by the carrier’s action in registering. It is thus taking an affirmative step to do business in this state. It is agreeing thereby to accept service by electronic mail (a benefit to all involved — the worker saves postage, the carrier does not scan documents, etc.). We do not create carriers based on what others (attorneys) tell us.
There is a list of carriers in e-JCC (there is no distinction between a true carrier and a servicing agent or third-party administrator). To find the list, click on the “Registered Carriers” link in e-JCC.
There, for example, you will find that there is a Commerce & Industry, but there is no Commerce & Industry Insurance Co./AIG Claims.
Thus, there is no way to effectuate the order discussed above. An order like this is similar to going to Baskin-Robbins and ordering pumpernickel ice cream. You can tell them all day long that is what you want (someone told you it is good), but they will not serve it to you. You can only get what they have.
It does not matter if you get angry at the scoop operator, or if you tell them you are an attorney or a judge, or if you tell them you have it on good authority from a friend or colleague that there is pumpernickel. There will still not be pumpernickel on the menu.
When someone wants to list a carrier in an OJCC case, he picks from a menu. If he wants to change to a different carrier or servicing agent, he picks from the same menu. When he specifies something that is not on the menu, the cooks in the kitchen (clerks) cannot help. It is not on the menu.
Remember, though, there is no limit to how many carriers you can have on a case.
The carrier on this case was already listed as AIG Claims Inc. The OJCC did not make that up. One of the parties started this case by filing either a petition or a request for assignment of case number. That party selected AIG Claims Inc.
Thereafter, some party concluded that this selection was insufficient. The moving party could have something different — Commerce & Industry Insurance Co. (it’s on the menu). That would change the carrier from one to the other.
But, the moving party could have something more by adding any of the AIG companies listed under that “AIG” name.
Or adding Commerce & Industry (which is what it may sound like was wanted with the motion and the resulting order). Or the party could keep what he has, AIG Claims. To accomplish what appeared to be wanted, the party could have moved to "add Commerce & Industry as a carrier in this case."
The result would have been the combination sought — AIG Claims/Commerce & Industry as the carriers on the case.
But you cannot have what is not on the menu, even if that is what has been ordered. The solution in situations like this is to consult the list in e-JCC first. Pick from the list and file a motion that is specific as to what the party wants. Then the order can be granted if the assigned judge agrees, and that order can tell the clerk what you want them to do: “The clerk’s office shall add Commerce & Industry Insurance Co. as a carrier on this case.”
This would result in two carriers, and they would be AIG Claims and Commerce & Industry Ins. That effect is seemingly identical, or at least very similar, to the party’s attempt to create a new "hybrid" carrier (AIG Claims/Commerce & Industry Ins.).
Or “The clerk’s office shall remove AIG Claims Inc. and add Commerce & Industry Insurance Co. as a carrier on this case.”
But it cannot be “The clerk’s office shall add ‘pumpernickel’ as a carrier on this case” (I checked the list, and we have no carrier called pumpernickel).
The clerk’s office will strive to make what a party orders from the menu, but it has to be from the menu (even if that means listing two or three or four carriers). Too often, it is apparent that attorneys are not taking a minute to check the carrier list in e-JCC before drafting a motion and filing it.
If that motion seeks something that does not exist, it is unlikely to move the party's cause forward. More likely, it will result in delay, frustration and cost, all of which could be avoided by spending a moment first, and consulting the carrier list.
If a party needs a carrier that is not on the list, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and the clerks will get to work finding and adding the carrier that is needed. It generally takes a few hours, but may take days if our efforts force us to writing letters. This occurs periodically, as companies change names, combine in joint ventures or begin offering coverage in Florida.
It has even happened when a carrier that does no business in Florida nonetheless is implicated because an out-of-state employee happened to travel here and was injured.
The goal of this office is twofold: First, to facilitate what the parties need in order to move their dispute through discovery, mediation and adjudication; second, to do so while minimizing costs and complication to the extent practical.
Attorneys can facilitate that second goal by checking the carrier list when a change is desired, by being mindful about whether a change or an addition is actually desired, and by drafting accurate and complete motions.
The benefits are clear. The process is simple.
Or a party may simply use trial and error. It can just keep sending orders to the kitchen in hopes that, eventually, it will happen upon a correct combination.
Consulting the menu first is not mandatory. But having elected not to consult the menu, a party should accept that any delay, frustration or cost that results is his own responsibility.
David Langham is deputy chief judge of the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims. This column is reprinted, with his permission, from his Florida Workers' Comp Adjudication blog.