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Petition for Review/Depublication Denied in Stevens v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board

The Supreme Court of California denied review and denied the request for depublication in Stevens v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board on February 17, 2016, though Judge Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar believed petition for review should have been granted. This means the opinion of the Court of Appeal (which is similar to the Supreme Court of California’s opinion South Coast Framing, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Clark)) the California Constitution gives the Legislature “plenary power” to pass laws relating to Workers’ Compensation which is not limited by the rest of the state Constitution – basically complete power to act (as long as it doesn’t conflict with the rest of that section of the California Constitution or federal due process rights under the U.S. Constitution, meaning basically the provision has some support).

As reminded by the Court of Appeal in Stevens, the Legislature found the process prior to SB 863 was time-consuming, costly, and did not result in uniform treated based on evidence-based medicine.  In response, the Legislature crafted IMR which is faster and less prone to errors than using the med-legal process.  While still subject to other legal attacks regarding the constitutionality of the IMR process, this is the process we have now, and along with the other reforms of SB 863 has resulted in significant savings for employers and insurers.

For additional information regarding this topic or any legal matters, please contact Martin Guzman at Martin.Guzman@PHGlaw.com or Helen Sagastume at Helen.Sagastume@PHGLaw.com.

Assuming the Supreme Court of the United States does not grant the petition for certiorari filed by the plaintiffs in Angelotti, another portion of SB863 is will have a final effect.  Beginning November 9, 2015, lien claimants who filed liens prior to January 1, 2013, had the opportunity to pay the lien activation fees owed per Labor Code section 4903.06 before the end of the year.  The DWC is no longer accepting lien activation fees for liens filed before January 1, 2013.

A few reminders:

  • All of the liens are dismissed by operation of law if no lien activation fee was paid before midnight on December 31, 2015.
  • Medical-legal providers and interpreters who filed liens must have paid their activation fee even though now they can file for reimbursement as a cost.
  • All lien claimants must include proof of payment of a lien activation fee
  • Not all liens are dismissed. Only medical treatment expenses were subject to the lien activation fee.  Also, other lien claimants are exempt from the filing fee.  This means liens that are not dismissed include:
    1. Attorney fee liens
    2. EDD liens
    3. Child support liens
    4. Living expenses liens
    5. Burial expenses liens
    6. Liens of a Health care service plan under Health and Safety Code section 1349
    7. Liens of a Group disability insurer under Insurance Code, section 10270.5
    8. Liens of a Self-insured employee welfare benefit plan under Insurance Code section 10121
    9. Liens of a Taft-Hartley health and welfare fund
    10. Liens of a Publicly funded program providing medical benefits on a nonindustrial basis.

If you are dealing with a lien claimant who is a health plan or health insurance provider, they may be exempt from the lien activation fee.  If it is not a medical lien, they were not required to pay the activation fee, and their lien will not be dismissed.

Bottom line 
(assuming the Supreme Court of the United States does not act):

  • All liens filed before January 1, 2013 are dismissed by operation of law if no lien activation fee was paid before midnight on December 31, 2015.

By Brian Hull. For more information about this post, contact a PHG Shareholder or call (831) 998-7348.