In County of San Diego v. WCAB and Kyle Pike, (D072648, filed 3/6/18), the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, rejected Applicant’s claim that temporary disability benefits are payable more than five years after his date of injury.
Kyle Pike suffered an injury to his right shoulder on July 31, 2010, for which he received an award of permanent disability in May 2011. Pike filed a timely Petition to Reopen his claim on May 26, 2015. An award of permanent disability in California may be reopened within five years of the date of injury, pursuant to Labor Code Section 5410, when there has been new and further disability. Pike sought additional temporary disability benefits as part of his Petition to Reopen, since he was medically declared temporarily totally disabled prior to the expiration of the five years.
In 2004, the legislature amended Labor Code Section 4656 to limit the period of time an injured worker could receive temporary disability benefits to 104 weeks from the initiation of the benefit. In 2008 the legislature amended the statute again, limiting the receipt of temporary disability benefits to 104 weeks within five years of the date of injury.
The WCJ granted Pike’s Petition and awarded temporary disability benefits for the period extending more than five years from the date of injury, and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board refused to disturb the finding. The Court of Appeal disagreed and reversed. The court’s reading of Labor Code Section 4656 concluded that the clear language in the statute limited the receipt of temporary disability benefits to 104 weeks within five years of the date of injury. That interpretation precludes any award of temporary disability benefits for a period arising more than five years after the date of injury when the date of injury occurs on or after January 1, 2008, notwithstanding the court’s jurisdiction to award new and further disability under Section 5410.
Pike represents a change from prior case law which allowed a court to award temporary disability benefits more than five years after the date of injury, as long as the injured worker was temporarily disabled prior to the expiration of the five years. The amendment of Labor Code Section 4656 further limits temporary disability benefits and ensures an employer’s exposure terminates after five years, even if 104 weeks of the benefit has not been paid. Pike and the amendments to 4656 represent successful efforts by the legislature to contain employer costs in the California workers’ compensation system.
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