Sanity Prevails on Award of TTD - Insurance Thought Leadership

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March 21, 2018

Sanity Prevails on Award of TTD

Summary:

An appeals court reversed a puzzling W.C.A.B. decision that awarded temporary total disability benefits beyond five years from the date of injury,

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The 4th District of the Court of Appeals has reversed a puzzling W.C.A.B. decision that had awarded TTD benefits beyond five years from the date of injury, ignoring the plain language of Labor Code 4656(c)(2). In County of San Diego v W.C.A.B. (Pike),<http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D072648.DOCX> the appellate court had little difficulty in reading the rather straightforward statutory language to firmly reverse the WCJ and W.C.A.B. decisions awarding TTD beyond the five-year jurisdictional limit set by statute.

The applicant, Kyle Pike, sustained injury to his right shoulder in July 2010 while employed as a deputy sheriff for the County of San Diego. He was awarded a 12% PD benefit in May 2011. On May 26, 2015, within the five-year jurisdictional time to reopen his case, he filed a Petition for New and Further Disability seeking TTD and Labor Code 4850 benefits. He received his 4850/TTD benefits through July 31, 2015, at which time benefits were terminated.

At trial, the WCJ awarded benefits on a continuing basis, determining that while Labor Code 4656 was clear regarding benefits payable within the five-year jurisdictional time frame in the statute, it was silent as to what benefits could be provided after five years from the date of injury. On reconsideration, the W.C.A.B., in a split decision, affirmed the WCJ’s award.

The Appellate Court had little difficulty in seeing through the WCJ’s and W.C.A.B.’s construct:

“       This interpretation of section 4656, subdivision (c)(2) is not tenable.  As discussed above, section 4656, subdivision (c)(2) clearly and unambiguously provides that temporary disability benefits “shall not extend for more than 104 compensable weeks within a period of five years from the date of injury.” (§ 4656, subd. (c)(2).) Thus, contrary to the board’s decision, the relevant statutory language does provide that all periods of temporary disability for which payments are made must occur within five years of date of the injury.”

The court also pointed out that if the WCJ/W.C.A.B. analysis was correct, even the 104-week limitation would not exist after the five-year limitation, in effect, eliminating any limitation on TTD beyond five years while providing limitations within five years, hardly a logical result.

“…Such inconsistent reasoning further demonstrates the fallacy of the WCJ’s interpretation.”

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The appellate court also pointed out that all of the authorities cited by the applicant attorney, amicus for applicant and the W.C.A.B. were interpretations of Labor Code 4656 prior to the amendments limiting TTD to the period within five years from the date of injury.  The court further noted that in the one decision it found where similar language was included in the statute, the appellate court had limited the receipt of TTD to within the five-year statutory time frame.

The court reversed the W.C.A.B. decision remanding the case back to the W.C.A.B. to grant the Petition for Reconsideration of the Petitioner, County of San Diego.

Comments and Conclusions:

The W.C.A.B.’s decision in this case is at best puzzling, at worst a flagrant attempt to avoid the legislature’s clear intent. It is difficult to conceive of how this statute could be tortured into an interpretation that allowed TTD to be paid beyond the statutory limitation. The analysis by the WCJ, adopted by the majority of the W.C.A.B., was patently inconsistent and required a tortured reading of the statute to reach the final result.

If the WCJ/W.C.A.B. analysis had been upheld, all an injured worker would have to do to obtain additional TTD is file a petition within five years from the date of injury and then wait till after the five-year date to claim additional TTD. Hardly a result the legislature intended and one that even the W.C.A.B. would have a hard time justifying with a straight face.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

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About the Author

Richard (Jake) M. Jacobsmeyer is a partner in the law firm of Shaw, Jacobsmeyer, Crain and Claffey, a statewide workers’ compensation defense firm with seven offices in California. A certified specialist in workers’ compensation since 1981, he has more than 18 years’ experience representing injured workers, employers and insurance carriers before California’s Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.

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