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Ever since the en banc opinion in Aldi v. Carr, McClellan, et al, (2006) 71 CCC 783 (W/D 71 CCC 1822), it has been clear that the revised permanent disability rating schedule adopted January 1, 2005 applies to injuries sustained prior to January 1, 2005, UNLESS the injured worker can establish that one of the exceptions set forth in the third sentence of 4660(d) is applicable. This sentence reads: The revised schedule will apply to pre-January 1, 2005 injuries:
"when there HAS BEEN either no comprehensive medical-legal report or no report by a treating physicianindicating the existence of permanent disability, or when the employer IS not required to provide THE notice required by Section 4061 to the injured worker." (Emphasis added)
The principles of Aldi were reaffirmed in a published opinion from the Third Appellate District in Chang v. WCAB (7-24-07) 72 CCC 921.
This third sentence of 4660(d) has fostered much litigation over the last several years. Issues included the question whether a "comprehensive medical-legal report" could be any such report or only one which indicates the existence of permanent disability. Another major issue was: what does "is not required to provide the notice required by Section 4061" mean? But perhaps a bigger question was what does “indicating the existence” mean.
DEFINING THE EXCEPTIONS
On April 6, 2007, the WCAB issued two en banc (4-3) decisions addressing two questions. In the first of these,Baglione v. Hertz 72 CCC 444, the question analyzed was what kind of medical report had to be written before 1-1-05. Would “any” comprehensive medical legal report, e.g. L.C. 4060, suffice? The Board found that not just "any" comprehensive medical-legal report before 1-1-05 would suffice to trigger the 1997 Schedule. In the battle over "to comma or not to comma", it was determined that to invoke this exception, the medical-legal report must also "indicate the existence" of permanent disability.
Also on April 6, 2007, the Board issued its decision in Pendergrass v Duggan Plumbing 72 CCC 456. This case concerned the "notice required by Section 4061". Some had argued that the duty to provide a 4061 notice arose with the first payment of temporary disability indemnity. The argument continued that therefore if TDI was paid before 1-1-05, a 4061 notice was required before 1-1-05, and therefore the 2005 Schedule for Rating Permanent Disability should NOT apply. The majority disagreed. Where payment of temporary disability indemnity starts before 1-1-05 and continues until 1-1-05 or later, there is no requirement to provide a 4061 notice until the last payment of TDI is made, the majority stated:
"...[I]f the last payment of temporary disability indemnity was made for any period of temporary disability ending before January 1, 2005, then the 1997 Schedule applies to determine the extent of permanent disability, pursuant to section 4660(d), because section 4061 requires the employer to provide the injured worker with a notice regarding permanent disability "[t]ogether with the last payment of temporary disability indemnity ...," (Emphasis added)
The principles of Baglione and Pendergrass have been reaffirmed in two published cases. On May 23, 2007, the decision in Costco v. WCAB (Chavez) 72 CCC 582 issued from the First DCA. On July 24, 2007, the decision inEnergetic Painting v. WCAB (Ramirez) (7-24-07) 72 CCC 937 issued from the Third DCA. Also see W/D and non-published cases: Bryer (9-27-07); City of Galt (Ramos) (9-21-07); Lyngso Garden Materials v. WCAB (Ruiz) 72 CCC 1097; Zenith v. WCAB (Watts) 72 CCC 1135.
A couple of questions not addressed by any of these decisions are:
WHAT EXACTLY DOES “INDICATING THE EXISTENCE OF PERMANENT DISABILITY MEAN?
The first case decided by a DCA on this issue was Vera v.WCAB 72 CCC 1115. The court had concluded that a medical condition had to be permanent and stationary before there could be an "indication".
In an opinion from the 2nd DCA in Genlyte Group v. WCAB (Zavala), 73 CCC 6, certified for publication on January 3, 2008, that Court stated:
“[T]he Vera court’s conclusion miss[es] the mark. ... The language of the statute is not limited to what the Vera court properly describes as the typical final or permanent and stationary report....
[I]n an appropriate case a physician is not precluded from reporting that permanent disability exists prior to the time the injured worker (sic) has reached permanent and stationary status or the extent of ratable permanent disability is known....”
The Court went on to cite several circumstances where the existence of permanent disability may be indicated before the injured worker’s condition becomes permanent and stationary. These included cases of insidious and progressive occupational disease, or severe burns or loss of sight or limbs, or where the injured worker becomes entitled to vocational rehabilitation.
Several decisions since January 2008 have favored the Genlyte rationale over Vera while none have favored Veraover Genlyte. In fact, the Genlyte decision was considered a change in the law and "good cause" to reopen a ces previously decided based on Vera, Avila - Gonzalez 75 CCC 1069. See Tenet v. WCAB (Reddick) 73 CCC 329 (in 10-04, QME advised: P&S if no surgery; expected PD if surgery done); Virginia Surety v. WCAB (Wragg) 73 CCC 75 (In 12-04, PTP advised: Wragg "will be left with some measure of permanent residual disability and limited functional capacity resulting from said industrial injury.); Zenith v. WCAB (Cugini) 73 CCC 81 (On remand to WCAB, instruction to follow Genlyte rationale). There were also numerous Board Panel decisions following Genltye.
Prior to Genlyte, there were there were a variety of Board Panel decisions and Writ Denied cases with similar views as to the meaning of "indicating the existence of permanent disability". The following is a sampling of these and related earlier decisions. In a W/D of 6-14-07 in Xerox v. WCAB (Blair) (6-14-07) 72 CCC 1044, where there had also been a 4061 notice issued before 1-1-05, the WCJ found that a PR-2 reporting loss of cervical motion after surgery was "an indication" of the existence of permanent disability. Also, presumed medical-QIW status [L.C. 4636(c)] was another "indication". As for QIW status, see also Panel Decisions in Compton (8-14-06); Mancinas (3-8-06); andCamacho (11-20-05). In Zurich v. WCAB. (Nunes) (W/D 3-1-07) 72 CCC 368, the WCJ had used the 2005 Rating Schedule. On reconsideration, the WCAB determined that a medical report of 9-27-04 showing that the IW had a herniated disc, footdrop, used a cane, and needed surgery constituted an "indication" of the existence of PD, and therefore the 1997 schedule should apply.
What about a surgery already done prior to 1-1-05? In Owens (2007)(W/D) 72 CCC 148 and in Helm (2007)(W/D) 72 CCC 962, carpal tunnel surgery done in 2003 did not "indicate" PD, but in Conroy (BPD 10-13-06), the Board held that virtual ACL reconstruction surgery itself (done 10-21-04) was an indication of the existence of PD, in part, because there was some indication in the AMA Guides that such a procedure would probably result in ratable permanent disability. And in Santa Rosa School District v. WCAB (Hagle) (W/D 8-29-07) a total hip replacement done in 5-04 (which would yield a WPI of 15-30 under the AMA Guides) was determined a sufficient "indication" of the existence of permanent disability to apply the 1997 schedule even though the condition had not become P&S before 1-1-05. Also, in City of Vacaville v. WCAB (Lee) (W/D) 71 CCC 1853, when the PTP reported on 12-30-04 that indeed the IW would have permanent disability, but his condition would not become P&S for 2-4 months, the Board found this report to be an "indication", and the 1997 schedule applicable. On the other hand, in SCIF v. WCAB (Echeverria) 72 CCC 33, the Court of Appeal found the WCAB decision to apply the 1997 schedule not supported by substantial evidence where the PTP signed a statement prepared by the IW's attorney on 12-15-04, to wit: "I believe permanent disability is within reasonable medical probability emanating from this injury." Similary, in HSR, Inc. v. WCAB (Mariscal) (non-published 9-24-07), the Sixth DCA found a "check the box" report before 1-1-05 inadequate to establish an "indication".
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