Home > 3208.3, Defenses > Crazy for Drycleaning

Crazy for Drycleaning

I recently started using a dry-cleaner near my office for my shirts.  Before, I used to wash and iron them at home, but the service is ridiculously affordable and convenient.  Little did I know, before reading about the story of Hilda Bonilla, that the work can be very dangerous.

Hilda, a dry cleaner, was injured when an ironing press came down on her hand at work.  The burn mark quickly appeared, followed by a claim for injury to her skin, psyche, nervous system, internal organs, and sleep.

The skinny: for a psyche claim for an employee working the job less than six months, the injury must be caused by an event that is both sudden AND extraordinary – the type of injury that regularly happens at this job, no matter how suddenly, does not qualify.

The Workers’ Compensation Judge found all injuries, the psyche as well, to be compensable.  Defendant petition for reconsideration, arguing that Labor Code § 3208.3(d) barred Hilda’s claim.

§ 3208.3 governs psyche claims, and specifically bars all claims of psychiatric injury for those employees with less than six months (total, not necessarily continuous) time on the job, unless the injury is caused by a sudden and extraordinary event.

Does the ironing press you were using a second ago coming down on your hand count as “a sudden and extraordinary event”?  If it does, is there any specific injury (rather than cumulative trauma) that isn’t a sudden and extraordinary event?

The record reflected ample witness testimony that burns were common, and that employees had to be careful lest they suffer burns from the equipment.

The WCAB granted reconsideration, reasoning that the event may have been horrible and happened suddenly, but the phenomenon of being burned while working at a dry cleaner was not extraordinary, as required by the statute.  By contrast, a gas explosion or workplace violence would qualify as such.

Hilda petitioned for a writ of review.  The result?  WRIT DENIED!  (Bonilla v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Cameo Cleaners))

Categories: 3208.3, Defenses

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