California Labor Code 4663(d) states, “An employee who claims an industrial injury shall, upon request, disclose all previous permanent disabilities or physical impairments.”
A long history of case law says that written interrogatories would contravene the California Constitutional mandate that the workers’ compensation accomplish substantial justice in all cases expeditiously, inexpensively, and without encumbrance of any character, and are therefore not allowable (Hardesty v. McCord & Holdren, Inc. and Industrial Indem. Co. (1976) 41 Cal. Comp. Cases 111; Lubin v. Berkley East Convalescent Hospital and Mission Insurance Company (1976) 41 Cal Comp. Cases 283).
This long history of case law correctly finds that written discovery would create discovery disputes more frequently, which would possibly delay the administration of workers’ compensation benefits to injured workers. Additionally, the system was designed to be a simple benefits delivery system and did not anticipate the need for lawyers to become involved in disputes and legal discovery battles. Imagine the unrepresented injured worker receiving form interrogatories similar to what is seen in the civil litigation system from a defense firm. Some injured workers cannot read—and they would require legal assistance.
Complicating this issue in 2017 we saw a new panel decision in the case of Nadey v. Pleasant Valley State Prison and State Comp. Ins. Fund. This Panel Decision held that the Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) should more clearly define the manner in which the Applicant should be compelled to disclose information pursuant to LC 4663(d).
For example, the statute does not define the timeframe in which the disclosure is required. The statute does not define the manner in which the disclosure must be made (written, verbal, under penalty of perjury?). It was returned to the trial level for the parties to try to meet and confer on the issue, and if that failed to have the WCJ clear up the ambiguities within the statute.
Some issues to ponder:
- Is this statute void for vagueness?
- How is “permanent disabilities” defined in this context?
- How is “impairments” defined in this context?
- Does answering the interrogatory require expert knowledge?
- Does the statute go too far to warrant a privacy objection pursuant to the case of Allison v. WCAB (e.g. irrelevant medical conditions)?
- Is this statute overbroad?
- In a case where the Applicant was already deposed, was this discovery already asked and answered?
It appears that this Statute has not yet been attacked at the Writ level. In the case of Nadey (supra), which went up for a removal decision at the WCAB, the Applicant’s attorney did not file an answer to the Defendant’s Petition for Removal.
The author of this blog post, Attorney Brian W Freeman, wishes to take this legal issue up to the Writ level. The Statute appears to be overbroad, vague, invasive to one’s privacy, and in conflict with decades of legal precedent and our California Constitution.
Injured on the job in California? Contact our Riverside workers’ compensation lawyers to schedule your free consultation.