Appellate Court Reverses Extension of Labor Code Section 4850 Salary Continuation/TTD Payments Beyond Five Years from Date of Injury
By David A. Goldstein, Esq.
California's 4th District Court of Appeals has reversed a Workers' Compensation Appeals Board decision that awarded total temporary disability (TTD) benefits beyond five years from the date of injury, which was contrary to what is outlined in Labor Code 4656.
Challenging the Interpretation of the Law
A law was enacted in January 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger limiting the payment of Labor Code Section 4850 and/or state rate TTD benefits for no more than 104 weeks (two years) within five years from the date of injury. This meant that even if less than two years of these monies were paid in the five years subsequent to the date of injury, the injured worker could not collect any further Labor Code Section 4850 or TTD benefits beyond five years from the date of injury.
The court decision in Pike v. County of San Diego challenged this interpretation of the law. A divided Board panel upheld a trial judge's Award of temporary disability (TD) indemnity, for a period beyond five years from a date of injury in a post-2005 case. The majority of the Board concluded that as long as the injured worker filed a Petition to Reopen in a timely fashion and fewer than 104 weeks of TTD benefits had been paid, additional payments could be made until payments had reached the 104 week cap. The Board reasoned that the language of Labor Code Section 4656 (c) (2) did not expressly forbid payment beyond five years from the date of injury and that the Labor Code Section 3202 liberal construction provision supported the continued payments.
Details of the Pike v. County of San Diego Case
In the Pike case, a deputy sheriff sustained an admitted right shoulder injury on July 31, 2010. The case was initially resolved on May 31, 2011. It was subsequently reopened as the sheriff's condition deteriorated on May 26, 2015, and a further claim was made for additional payments of Labor Code Section 4850 salary continuation and TD payments. After reviewing the statutes and the relevant case law, the majority panel from the Board concluded that the five-year language in Labor Code Section 4656 (c) (2) did not bar an Award of TD indemnity beyond five years from the date of injury, as long as no more than 104 weeks of benefits were ultimately paid.
The Appeals Court's Reasoning
"The statute clearly says that, for an injury occurring on or after January 1, 2008, temporary disability benefits 'shall not extend for more than 104 compensable weeks within a period of five years from the date of injury,'" the court said in its decision. "This text supports the conclusion that the Board is authorized to award a maximum of 104 weeks of temporary disability payments to a worker who suffers an injury on or after January 1, 2008, but also limits payments to a period of disability occurring within five years of the injury."
It is unclear as to whether this case will proceed to the California Supreme Court. We will continue to keep a close eye on it and we will inform you of updates.