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California: Are All Claimed Psychiatric Injuries Barred by Criminal Conduct?

September 09, 2016 (2 min read)

The Court of Appeal, Second District, recently denied defendant’s petition for writ of review in the matter of Ease Entertainment v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, ADJ9392012. In the underlying case, applicant had filed a claim for psychiatric injury after a catastrophic accident while filming a motion picture in Georgia. Applicant was the first assistant director. She had been denied access to shoot footage on a train trestle and proceeded to shoot the footage anyway. While shooting, a train hit the film set causing one crew member’s death and injuring several others. Applicant was charged with and found guilty of both manslaughter and criminal trespass. She was placed through Georgia’s First Offender law (Ga. Code Ann. § 42–8-60). This law allows for the applicant to participate in probation and if she successfully passes probation, no conviction is entered on her record.

(Publisher’s Note: All cites link to Lexis Advance.)

Applicant filed a claim for psychiatric injury as a result of this accident under California’s workers’ compensation laws. Defendant denied the claim asserting that her injury occurred during the commission of a felony pursuant to Labor Code § 3600(a)(8). Both the WCJ and the WCAB, in split panel decision, concluded that defendant did not meet its burden under Labor Code § 3600(a)(8). The WCAB majority concluded that Labor Code § 3600(a)(8) required that applicant’s injury be caused by the commission of felony for which she was “convicted”, and that, because applicant was not “convicted” of felony, her claim was not barred by Labor Code § 3600(a)(8).

California does not have a First Offender Law similar to that found in Georgia; however, if applicant had been charged with these same crimes in California, as a first offender, a California trial court could have also possibly sentenced her to only probation. Like Georgia, if applicant only received a sentence of probation in California, she would not have received a felony conviction pursuant to Penal Code § 17(b)(3) as is required by Labor Code § 3600(a)(8). Accordingly, when dealing with Labor Code § 3600(a)(8), while the actual criminal charges are important, the actual sentence the employee receives is even more important because that will ultimately determine whether the injury truly occurred during the commission of a felony “conviction”. and Lexis Advance online subscribers can read the full summary of the case in Cal. Comp. Cases. Here are the links:

Ease Entertainment Services, Starr Indemnity and Liability Company, administered by Broadspire, Petitioners v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, Hillary Schwartz, Respondents,, Lexis Advance

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