Friday, November 14, 2014

Good Logic Applied

The California Supreme Court this week denied review of a case where logic was actually applied by the lower courts. Though unfortunate for the injured worker, the courts application of the law brought a rational result.

John Aresco had developed Guillian-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system, in 1998.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it affects about one person in 100,000, and its causes are unknown.

The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board had said that "the record was unclear how applicant was injured at work, and [had earlier] concluded regardless of whether the injury was caused by eating tainted food, picking up trash, or eating a berry given to him by a co-worker, none of these can be considered an "extraordinary" employment" within the meaning of Labor Code Section 3208.3(d).

Bowzer didn't think it smelled right...
Section 3208.3(d) bars compensation for psychiatric injuries for workers who have been employed for less than six months, unless it arises from a "sudden and extraordinary" event.

Since Aresco had not worked for his employer for at least six months before his fell ill, the "sudden and extraordinary" exception was his only hope of obtaining compensation for his alleged psyche injury.

But the board said it "is not the medical condition which must be extraordinary," rather, it is the employment condition causing the injury that must be "unusual, uncommon, or unexpected."

This finding resulted in a diminution of Aresco's permanent disability rating from 47% (if psyche were included) to 13% (with only internal injuries left).

Aresco appealed, but the 1st District Court of Appeal summarily denied writ in August. 

The Supreme Court then decided not to take up the matter, Aresco v. WCAB (Marine World Africa USA), No. S221011, at its case-review conference on Wednesday.

I'm all for injured workers getting the maximum amount of benefits due them under the law, and I don't fault Aresco's attorneys for pushing the limits - they're doing their job too.

But the law, as they say, is the law, and the Board and subsequent appellate courts have correctly interpreted the statute.

THAT might be an extraordinary (though not sudden) event.

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