Temporary Disability

County of San Diego v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Pike) (ADJ781190) ( 83 CCC 465):

 

The applicant filed a Petition to Reopen on May 26, 2015. The applicant contended his shoulder injury had worsened. The applicant sought salary continuation benefits pursuant to §4850 and temporary total disability benefits according to Labor Code §4653.

 

The county paid the applicant §4850 and temporary disability benefits due to him through the period ending five years from the date of injury.

 

The applicant sought additional §4850 and temporary disability benefits for a period occurring after five years from the date of injury July 31, 2010. Specifically, the applicant sought §4850 benefits for the period September 15, 2015 through March 28, 2016 and temporary disability benefits for the period March 29, 2016 through August 28, 2016.

 

The County contended that §4656, subdivision (c)(2) limited the applicant to §4850 benefits and temporary disability benefits to periods occurring within the first five years from the date of injury July 31, 2010 through July 31, 2015.

 

The WCJ found that when applicant has filed a timely petition to reopen, and temporary total disability benefits have commenced prior to the five years from the date of injury, the Appeals Board’s continuing jurisdiction over temporary total disability benefits continues beyond five years from the date of injury.

 

The County filed a Petition for Reconsideration. The WCAB, in a split decision, upheld the Worker’s Compensation Judge. The dissenting panel member concluded that §4656 (c) (2) is not susceptible of an interpretation that permits an award of temporary disability more than five years after the date of injury.

 

County filed a petition for Writ of Review that was granted.

 

The Court of Appeal stated that Labor Code §4656 provides different limitations on payment of temporary disability contingent upon the date of injury.

 

Labor Code §4656 (c) (2) provides that aggregate disability payments for a single injury occurring on or after January 1, 2008, causing temporary disability benefits may not be awarded for periods of disability occurring more than five years from the date of a worker’s injury.

 

The plain language of the section supports the conclusion that the Board may not award temporary disability payments for any period of disability occurring beyond five years from the date of injury. The language of the statute supports the conclusion that the Board is authorized to award a maximum of 104 of temporary disability payments to workers suffers an injury on or after January 1, 2008, but limits payments to periods of disability occurring within five years of the date of injury.

 

The legislative history supports the conclusion that for an injury occurring on or after January 1, 2008, the legislature intended to limit temporary disability benefits to five years from the date of a worker’s injury for injuries occurring on after January 1, 2008.

 

Case law interpreting an analogous restriction in former §4656 supports the conclusion that temporary disability benefits may not be awarded under §4656, subdivision (c) (2) for periods of disability occurring more than five years from the date of a worker’s injury.

 

The jurisdictional limitations in sections 5410, 5803 and 5804 are separate and distinct from the substantive law limiting an award of temporary disability benefits in §4656 (citing Nickelsberg v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1991) 54 Cal.3d 288).

 

Even assuming the Board had jurisdiction under §5410 to rule on applicant’s petition to reopen, the Board had no power to award benefits in direct contravention of the express substantive limitation on the award of temporary disability benefits contained in §4656(c)(2) – the Board must have both jurisdiction and law entitling the worker to benefits.

 

The liberal construction rule of §3202 should not be used to defeat the overall statutory framework and fundamental rules of statutory construction.

 

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