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SB-863 On Governor’s Desk

Well, well, dear readers – welcome back!  As we recover from our Labor Day shopping, road trips, and other celebrations, we are greeted by a new law of the land.  That’s right, dear readers – SB 863 has passed both the State Assembly and the Senate, creating a tidal wave of momentum as it is rushed to Governor Brown’s waiting desk.  In case you’re wondering, Governor Brown has been pushing for SB-863, and popular speculation counsels that today’s early morning sunshine will show his signature adorning the bill.

SB-863 gives us plenty to talk about: 170 pages of reform and a new frontier for attorneys to litigate.  But it appears that most of the changes will take place for injuries on or after January 1, 2013.  That’s not long to wait, admittedly, but if you’ve got a few filing cabinets full of pre-2013 injuries, the cavalry will be coming only slowly.

Despite its many wonderful changes, one of the disappointments with this bill is found in section 1, subsection (c): “it is not the intent of the Legislature to overrule the holding in Milpitas Unified School District v. Workers Comp. Appeals Bd. (Guzman).”  But perhaps there is a silver lining: has the Legislature said something else in this declaration of legislative intent?  After all, there are two cases dealing with rebutting the AMA Guides and skirting their strict interpretation:  Almaraz and GuzmanGuzman III offers us considerably healthier language.

So here’s a thought – if the Legislature expressly states that it does not mean to overrule Guzman III, we know that despite the Legislature’s various limitations, it is able to articulate those cases which it does not wish to overrule.  Can we, then, assume that the Legislature does intend to overrule Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board decision in Almaraz II to the extent that Almaraz II differs from Guzman III?

Perhaps… time will tell.

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