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California statute of limitations for temporary disability awards upheld

California statute of limitations for temporary disability awards upheld

A California appeals court nullified an award to an injured worker for temporary disability benefits occurring five years after the employee’s injury.

While employed by the county as a deputy sheriff, Kyle Pike suffered an injury to his right shoulder on July 31, 2010, and was granted a 12% permanent disability award in May 2011, according to court documents in County of San Diego v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and Kyle Pike. Mr. Pike sought to reopen the petition and receive temporary disability benefits on May 26, 2015, arguing that his shoulder injury had worsened. The county paid all benefits owed to him for the five years from the date of the injury up to July 31, 2015, but declined to provide additional benefits after that date.

A workers compensation judge issued an order determining that Mr. Pike was entitled to the additional benefits — a decision upheld by a majority of the board, which concluded that the judge was “authorized to award temporary disability indemnity within the five-year period, to continue until the 104-week limitation is exhausted or period of temporary disability ends.” However, the dissenting board panel member concluded that the language of the statute “is not susceptible of an interpretation that permits an award of temporary disability more than five years after July 31, 2010, the date of (Mr. Pike’s) injury.”

In its appeal, the county argued against awarding temporary disability payments for periods of disability occurring more than five years after the date of the underlying injury that Mr. Pike suffered while working for the county.

The question at the heart of the appeal is “straightforward,” the Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District, Division 1 in California said in ruling in favor of the county, concluding that the plain language of the statute indicates that the county’s view was correct. The court annulled a board order affirming the judge’s order awarding the temporary disability benefits beyond the five-year period.

The appeals court remanded the case to the board with directions to grant the county’s petition for reconsideration.

“Our view of the Pike decision is that, while it is a case of first impression, it is also a straightforward application of basic rules of statutory construction,” Ellen Sims Langille, general counsel with the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, said in an emailed statement. “The law requires an appellate court to construe a statute in accordance with its underlying legislative intent. In our amicus brief, CWCI was able to provide the Court of Appeal with the relevant legislative history outlining the legislature’s intent to limit temporary disability benefits to five years from the date of injury.  In light of these rules and legislative history, the Court of Appeal had an easy decision to make.” 

Mr. Pike's attorney could not be immediately reached for comment. 



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