Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

Anyone injured while on the job in California may be entitled to receive compensation while they are recovering from their injuries under the California Workers’ Compensation Act (CWCA). Under the CWCA, when an employee suffers a qualifying injury, their employer must cover the employee’s medical expenses as well as provide the employee with ongoing workers’ compensation benefits for the duration of their recovery.

Slip-and-FallThe Requirements of a Workers’ Compensation Claim

After suffering a California workplace injury, an employee should obtain the necessary medical care. In some cases, an employee will need to visit a specific doctor. However, in emergency cases, the employee can seek medical attention at the nearest hospital or medical facility.

The employee should then notify the employer immediately, or within 30 days at the very most, in order to preserve their right to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. In cases in which an employee’s injury has developed over time, the employee should notify the employer as early as practicable. Often, this would be the first time that the injury required the employee to miss a day of work. If an employee does not report the injury in a timely manner, the employer may have grounds to contest the employee’s workers’ compensation application.

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The California Court of Appeal issued an unpublished opinion recently in a lawsuit involving a car accident that occurred when a driver crashed his vehicle through a restaurant and injured a restaurant employee. The employee received workers’ compensation benefits and medical expenses.  She then pursued a civil claim against the driver.  The issue in the case was whether the workers’ compensation insurer for the employer had a right to recover compensation from a trestauranthird party that had been released from liability by the insured individual.  The lower court had held that since the injured employee had not recovered damages from the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit, the workers’ compensation insurer had no right to reimbursement for benefits paid to the employee.

The restaurant’s workers’ compensation insurance company paid her $18,388.15 in workers’ compensation benefits and medical expenses. The employee then sued the driver for damages. The insurer filed a complaint in intervention, seeking to recover benefits paid to the employee.

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In a recent unpublished opinion, the California Court of Appeal addressed whether a contractor could be held liable for injuries to an individual after the completion of their work.  The lower court had grantelectrical terminalsed the defendant contractor’s summary judgment motion, based on the affirmative defense of the “completed and accepted” doctrine, dismissing the plaintiff’s negligence and fraud action. This doctrine holds that once an owner has accepted the sufficiency of work performed by a contractor, that contractor can no longer be held liable to third parties for resulting injuries.

The plaintiff worked for Keogh Electric Corp. (“KEC”) as a foreman on a project to erect a distribution panel that sat atop an elevated concrete pad and would serve as a new metal shredder at Kramar’s Iron & Metal, Inc. (“Kramar’s”). In August 2012, the panel and pad were installed at Kramar’s. The plaintiff texted Douglas Keogh that “Kramar is done” on August 25, 2012, and later testified that this meant that KEC’s work on that project had been completed.

The plaintiff then accepted a job at Kramar’s.  He did not see anyone from KEC performing more work at Kramar’s, nor did he see anyone request that more work be performed on the electrical distribution panel. Kramar paid KEC in full for the work.

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The California Court of Appeal recently addressed whether the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board could impose penalties for unreasonably delaying or denying advance disability pension payments to local peace opolice carfficers disabled on the job.  The jurisdictional question posed in this case was whether the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board could impose penalties according to the Labor Code for an unreasonable delay in payment.

The plaintiff in this case worked as a deputy sheriff in Sacramento and suffered a job-related injury. She applied for industrial disability retirement and requested advance disability pension payments, available under Labor Code section 4850.4, during the period that her retirement application was processed. She did eventually receive these payments, but she sought penalties for an unreasonable delay, under Labor Code section 5814.

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In an unpublished opinion, a California Court of Appeal addressed whether workers’ compensation served as the exclusive remedy for an employee psychologically harmed by her participation in a staged mock robbery. She was not aware it had been a training exercise.  On appeal, the issue was whether the jury had properly been given instructions about thgune workers’ compensation exclusivity rule.

The plaintiff employee of West Kern Water District worked as a cashier at the district’s office. While employees received some training on how to respond to a robbery, supervisors decided to test the response of employees to a staged robbery.  As part of the mock robbery, one of the district managers entered the office in a mask and demanded money from the employee, saying he had a gun. The employee victim had not been notified of the mock robbery, and she handed over money. She underwent treatment for psychiatric harm. She brought a claim for assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.  A jury awarded her $360,000.

The trial court denied defendant West Kern Water District’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, but it granted their motion for a new trial on the ground that the jury had received an inappropriate instruction on the workers’ compensation exclusivity rule. The employee and the defendants appealed.

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In an appeal involving procedural issues central to the claims of injured workers, a California Court of Appeal addressed whether there had been a final order and whether an employer could seek review of a deniacourthousel of a petition to remove and reconsider. The court reiterated that writs of review may only be sought from final orders or decisions of the appeals board.

The injured employee in this case alleged that he suffered an industrial injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim. After a medical report was circulated, his employer, Capital Builders Hardware, Inc., argued the report was inadmissible and requested that it be stricken. The workers’ compensation judge denied Capital’s motions, and Capital appealed the decision to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. The board dismissed and denied the petition for removal and the petition for reconsideration.

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The California Court of Appeal, Second District, recently addressed the issue of whether an exception applied to the general rule that an independent contractor cannot recover tort damages for work-related injuries from their hirer. In this case, the court found that the employee had not presented evidence that his hirer contributed to his injuries. The court found there were no triable issues of matconstruction workererial fact regarding his theory that the retained control exception or nondelegable duty exception applied.

Al Khosh worked for Myers Power Products, Inc., a subcontractor for an electrical project at California State University Channel Islands. Mr. Khosh was injured during the course of his employment and sued the general contractor, Staples Construction, for negligence.

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The California Court of Appeal recently addressed the issue of whether an employer can be held liable for injuries caused by an employee under the doctrine of respondeat superior.  In this unpublished opinion, the court assessed whether the going and coming rule applied to an employee who provided two other employees a ride to their employer-paid hotel and caused a traffic accident as they were driving home from work.

oil rigs

The trial court in this case applied the going and coming rule after the employer moved for summary judgment and the plaintiff moved for summary adjudication.  The court had focused on the facts that the employees were responsible for arranging and paying for their transportation from the employer-provided hotel to the job site, the employer had not required employees to rideshare or carpool, and the employer did not benefit, even incidentally, from the ridesharing arrangement of the employees.

The employer in this case was Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co. (H&P), a company that operates oil drilling rigs, including those in Kern County.  Employees work a shift, called a “hitch” for the drilling rigs, which is a 12-hour day for 14 days, followed by 14 days off. The defendant employer provides hotel arrangements, should the employees want to stay close to the drilling site.  Employees are responsible for paying for their transportation to and from the hotel and the job site.

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Recently, a California Court of Appeal addressed the issue of whether the California Workers’ Compensation Act barred a negligence claim brought by an injured employee against his employer for negligence.  In this opinion, the appellate court looked at whether the claim arose out of and in the course of employment, and it stated that the degree of negligence on behalf of the employer did not affect a determination of whether the exclusivity provision applied.

metal folding chair

Paul Friend worked as a tow truck driver for GBWY and alleged that he suffered injuries at work when a metal folding chair he was sitting on collapsed underneath him.  Mr. Friend claimed that the negligence of defendants William Kang and GBWY Investment Group caused his injury.  The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that workers’ compensation was Mr. Friend’s exclusive remedy. The trial court granted summary judgment and dismissed the claim.

Mr. Friend appealed on the ground that summary judgment was improper because there was a factual dispute as to whether the defendants were in fact Mr. Friend’s employer, and whether Mr. Kang owned the chair that caused his injury.  When the defendants moved for summary judgment, they had the burden of proving that one or more elements of negligence could not be established, or there was a complete defense to the negligence claim. The burden then shifted to Mr. Friend to show a triable issue of fact regarding the negligence claim.

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In a recent case, the California Court of Appeal addressed whether an injury that led to an employee’s death occurred in the course and scope of his employment.  The court here examined the weight of circumstantial evidence, particularly in light of the fact that proving industrial causation is difficult in the case of a death.  Inferences must be reasonable, but the court stated it is not required that the plaintiff show an inference in his favor is the only one that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence.

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Carlos Ivan Rodas, age 32, worked as a dishwasher at Guidos Restaurant. Mr. Rodas died from a pulmonary hemorrhage while taking out the trash at work.  He had been wheeling an overflowing trashcan on a dolly to the dumpster. Mr. Rodas’ family retained an internal medicine doctor to opine on the cause of Mr. Rodas’ death.  Dr. Ronald Zlotolow, M.D., opined that coughing, brought on by the trash odors, or the lifting of heavy garbage, caused Mr. Rodas’ bleeding.

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