Psyche Injury Case Law Update – Predominant Cause (2016)
In State of California, Department of Corrections (Olden) v. W.C.A.B. (2016) 81 Cal. Comp. Cases 458, 2016 Cal. Wrk. Comp. LEXIS 51, applicant suffered a specific lumbar spine injury of June 17, 2005, which ultimately settled. Applicant subsequently filed a cumulative trauma injury to his back and psyche between April 31, 2007 and January 4, 2012. The back injury was accepted while the psyche was denied by defendant. The PQME, Dr. Friedman, opined that applicant’s psychological injuries were a combined result of the specific and cumulative trauma injuries, with “the predominant cause being the pain and failed spinal surgery and epidural injections resulting from the specific injury.”
The WCJ held that applicant’s two injuries combined to meet the predominant cause threshold under Labor Code § 3208.3(b)(1) because applicant showed through substantial medical evidence that his temporary disability and need for medical treatment were the combined result of both back injuries – despite the fact that the cumulative trauma injury (injury at issue) alone did not amount to 51 percent.
Defendant filed a Petition for Reconsideration arguing that the WCJ impermissibly combined the effects of applicant’s two injuries to find that applicant met his burden to prove predominant cause. The WCAB denied Reconsideration. Defendant filed a Petition for Writ of Review, which was denied on April 19, 2016.
Practice Pointers: Beware when dealing with predominant cause with regard to psychiatric claims where applicant has sustained previous and/or concurrent injuries (even resolved) as it may come back to “haunt you” (in light of the Halloween spirit) when defending psyche claims. This case signifies the importance of obtaining all information regarding applicant’s current and past industrial and non-industrial injuries through deposition testimony, medical records, and/or background checks when defending a psyche claim because every relevant bit of applicant’s history will contribute towards “predominant cause.”