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California District Court of Appeal Rules that Safety Officers are Entitled to One Year of TD in Addition to One Year of LC § 4850 Benefit

February 1, 2013

(Knittel reverses prior decisions that allowed two years’ worth of TD benefits in addition to one year of LC § 4850 full salary.)

by Christian Kerry

On 1/30/2013, the Court of Appeals published a decision in the case of County of Alameda  v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Knittel), holding that Labor Code section 4850 benefits are subject to the 104-week cap set forth in Labor Code section 4656(c)(2).

This is the only published case addressing the issue and is, therefore, citable and binding authority on all workers’ compensation judges as well as the WCAB. This is a significant victory for California public entities, won by one of Hanna Brophy’s partners, Christian Kerry.

Labor Code section 4656(c)(2) applies to all dates of injury on or after 1/1/08, and it limits “aggregate disability payments” to 104 weeks within a period of five years from the date of injury. In this case, a deputy sheriff sustained injury to his left knee on 9/13/09 and received a year of full salary benefits pursuant to Labor Code section 4850 followed by one year of temporary disability. Relying on the prior cases decided by the WCAB, the applicant’s attorney argued that his client was entitled up to another full year of temporary disability benefits. The WCJ agreed as did the WCAB on reconsideration.

In a major victory for California public employers, the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Labor Code section 4850 benefits are included in the term “aggregate disability benefits,” which  Labor  Code section 4656(c)(2) caps at 104 weeks.

Up to this point, the WCAB had allowed public safety officers to collect 104 weeks’ worth of TD benefits in addition to their full year of salary continuation benefits per Labor Code section 4850, for a total of 3 years’ worth of benefits. Conservative estimates are that public entities statewide were spending approximately $25 million annually for officers who were collecting a third year of benefits.

We offer our thanks and congratulations to Hanna Brophy’s partner, Christian Kerry, for his hard work and persistence on this claim as well as for the victory on behalf of public employers statewide.

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