Everest National didn't think so.
But the California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) did. And the 4th District Court of Appeals didn't disagree.
In Allgreen Landscapes et al. v. WCAB et al., No. G046627, Teodora Mota asserted a lien for homecare services for her husband.
Mota's husband was involved in a car accident in August 2001, which left him comatose for over a month and permanently disabled. He sustained injuries to his head, neck, jaw, low back, right leg, right shoulder, left wrist, chest, liver, nose, eyes, gums, urinary tract and gastrointestinal system, which affected his sense of smell, hearing and psyche, and rendered him impotent.
He received an 89% stipulated award for permanent disability and future medical care.
Teodora Mota filed a lien for home care 2 years later.
At trial she testified without contradiction that she had cared for her husband 24-hours a day since his discharge from the hospital. Mota said she regularly fed him, took him for walks, administered his medications, and placed his catheter.
The trial judge awarded Mota reimbursement for services at the median rate for a licensed vocational nurse in Orange County.
Everest argued that the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 barred Mota's claim since she was an illegal alien and was not eligible to work in the United States.
In a panel decision this January, the WCAB noted that Mota undisputedly provided care to her husband for which Everest did not deny liability.
The WCAB reasoned that had she elected to move to Mexico for medical treatment and rehabilitation for her husband and provided the exact same care for him there, her employment status or right to reimbursement would not be an issue. That she chose to stay in the United States should not change this result, the panel said.
This is a difficult situation but I think the WCAB got the result right. It is not so much about "working" in the United States as it is about providing proper compensation.
I don't know the immigration status of Mota's husband but as we know that is irrelevant to the payment of compensation in a work injury in California. Immigration status is only relevant to vocational status post injury.
In Mota's case, that she is providing for her husband 24 hours a day, according to the facts, removes her from the labor pool in which she could otherwise generate income for the family - be it illegally in the United States, or legally in Mexico.
Everest would otherwise have had to pay for Mota's husband's care, so when one really gets down to brass tacks Everest didn't lose anything - it was responsible for the care regardless of the provider, and potentially even more expensive care.