On Aug. 1, 2023, the 2nd District Court of Appeal issued its decision in Earley v. WCAB invalidating the long-standing practice of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) to grant petitions for reconsideration without first deciding whether reconsideration is warranted. It held that pursuant to Labor Code § 5908.5, the WCAB must state in detail the reasons for its decision to grant reconsideration and the evidence that supports it. But it also held that the WCAB is not required to issue a final ruling on the merits within 60 days.
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The Labor Code describes different procedures for requesting a panel of qualified medical evaluators (QMEs). Labor Code § 4062.1 controls the procedure by which parties may obtain a medical evaluation to address a disputed issue pursuant to LC 4060, LC 4061 and LC 4062 when the employee is not represented by an attorney. LC 4062.2 establishes the procedure when an employee is represented by an attorney.
Pursuant to LC 4062.1(b), either party may request a QME panel per LC 4060, LC 4061 and LC 4062 by submitting the form prescribed by the administrative director requesting the medical director to assign a panel of three QMEs. In unrepresented cases, the California Code of Regulations § 30(a)(1) states that for disputes covered by LC 4060, the requesting party must attach the claims administrator's notice that the claim was denied or a copy of the claims administrator's request for an examination to determine compensability. For disputes covered by LC 4061 or LC 4062, CCR 30(a)(2) states that "[I]f the requesting party is the claims administrator, the claims administrator shall attach a written objection indicating the identity of the primary treating physician, the date of the primary treating physician's report that is the subject of the objection and a description of the medical determination that requires a comprehensive medical-legal report."
Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, Inc.: Employer Does Not Owe a Duty of Care to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 to Employees' Household Members
Employees have the right to file workers' compensation claims when they contract COVID-19 as a result of their employment. Workers' compensation is the exclusive remedy for an employee's COVID-19 claim.
Generally, the exclusive remedy doctrine bars not only civil claims against an employer by an injured worker, but also extends to claims brought by all others that are collateral to or derivative of the employee's injury. This is known as the derivative injury rule.
It has long been recognized that an employee's ability to participate in vocational retraining is a significant factor that must be considered in assessing the worker's permanent disability. (LeBoeuf v. WCAB (1983) 48 CCC 587, 597.) An employee's inability to compete in the open labor market could support an award of permanent total disability. Even though vocational rehabilitation was repealed and replaced with the supplemental job displacement benefit, an employee still can rebut a scheduled rating by establishing that he or she was not amenable to rehabilitation. (Ogilvie v. WCAB (2011) 76 CCC 624.) That's commonly done with evidence from vocational experts.
It is not uncommon for a defendant to overpay permanent disability (PD) benefits. An overpayment might occur for several reasons. The defendant might not receive the physician's report declaring the applicant permanent and stationary until long after the evaluation. Or a defendant simply might make a mistake and pay more PD than required.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ended the COVID-19 state of emergency in California. While it was in effect, however, the workers' compensation system was subject to numerous changes and disruptions. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) moved toward remote hearings, and Gov. Newsom issued an executive order extending specified time limits established in the Labor Code and administrative regulations.
On March 22, 2023, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) issued its ninth, and possibly final, en banc decision regarding COVID-19, “In Re: COVID-19 State of Emergency En Banc –– No. 9.” Because Governor Newsom terminated the state of emergency in response to COVID-19 as of Feb. 28, 2023, the WCAB announced that it was rescinding all remaining en banc decisions which had temporarily suspended specific WCAB Rules of Practice and Procedure, effective as of the date of the decision. Specifically, the WCAB announced the following decisions were rescinded:
Generally, an employer must deny a claim within 90 days to avoid a presumption that it's compensable. Labor Code 5402(b)(1) states, "If liability is not rejected within 90 days after the date the claim form is filed under Section 5401, the injury shall be presumed compensable under this division." Once the presumption attaches, it can be rebutted only by evidence that could not have been obtained with the exercise of reasonable diligence within the 90-day period. (SCIF v. WCAB (Welcher) (1995) 60 CCC 717.)