Home > Presumptions > Knowledge of WC Presumptions is not Knowledge of Industrial Causation

Knowledge of WC Presumptions is not Knowledge of Industrial Causation

Applicant fireman and fire chief filed an application in 2008 for what turned out to be a cancerous lump discovered on his neck in 2004.  The Workers’ Compensation Judge and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board promptly handed applicant an award.  But wait – under Labor Code section 5405(a), there is a one-year statute of limitations on filing workers’ compensation claims.

The case is Gary Scholar v. City of Chico, and the defense of statute of limitations was raised – only to be defeated by applicant’s claims of ignorance.  In the panel opinion, the majority went over applicant’s testimony, given at trial, that no one told him the lump was certainly cancer until 2008, at which time he promptly filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Now, your sarcastic and cynical blogger is sure that at least some of his wise and learned readers are wondering why the defense took it this far – this majority opinion presents the facts as a slam-dunk case for the applicant and the litigation dollars were apparently just wasted.  Well, not so much.

One of the first maxims law students learned, at least they did back in my day, is: “if you want to know what really happened, read the dissent.”  And read the dissent your diligent blogger did.

Commissioner Lowe, dissenting from the majority opinion, presented facts that may have otherwise been overlooked.  For example, at his deposition, applicant testified that after a 2004 surgery, the surgeon told applicant that the lump was positive for cancer.  The defense even took the surgeon’s deposition, at which time he testified that applicant was “definitely” aware that the lump was cancerous, and even the type of cancer, in 2004.

“Well, alright,” you may be thinking, as you sip your morning coffee and use this blog to put off work for a few minutes, “assuming he knew the lump was cancer in 2004, how was he to know that it was industrial?”  Well, applicant was a fire chief and testified that he was well aware that cancer found in firemen is generally presumed industrial.  In other words, the evidence shows that in 2004, applicant knew he had cancer and knew that the law would most likely presume that the cancer was industrial.

In all fairness, this ruling does have some reasonableness to it – perhaps it was too close for the WCAB to go against the WCJ.  In the world of WCDefenseCA, however, applicant’s claim should have been barred by the statute of limitations.  This workers’ compensation defense attorney opines so, at least.

What do you think?  Is your dear and loyal blogger over-favoring the defense?  Or did the WCJ get it wrong?

Categories: Presumptions
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