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California: Insurance Coverage; Site-Specific Workers' Compensation Insurance Policies

June 01, 2022 (2 min read)

Recently a panel of the California WCAB issued an opinion regarding the validity of so-called site-specific workers’ compensation insurance policies. Read more about the Gharakhanian decision below in our headnote:


Copyright 2022 by Matthew Bender & Company, Inc.

Minas Gharakhanian, Applicant v. Cool Air Supply, California Insurance Guarantee Association for Ulico Casualty Company in liquidation, Zurich American Insurance Company, Defendants

W.C.A.B. No. ADJ8706846—WCAB Panel: Deputy Commissioner Schmitz, Chair Zalewski, Commissioner Lowe

Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (Board Panel Decision)

Opinion Filed May 18, 2022

Publication Status:  CAUTION: This decision has not been designated as a “significant panel decision” by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Practitioners should proceed with caution when citing to this panel decision and should also verify the subsequent history of the decision, as these decisions are subject to appeal. WCAB panel decisions are citeable authority, particularly on issues of contemporaneous administrative construction of statutory language [see Griffith v. WCAB (1989) 209 Cal. App. 3d 1260, 1264, fn. 2, 54 Cal. Comp. Cases 145]. However, WCAB panel decisions are not binding precedent, as are en banc decisions, on all other Appeals Board panels and workers’ compensation judges [see Gee v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (2002) 96 Cal. App. 4th 1418, 1425 fn. 6, 67 Cal. Comp. Cases 236]. While WCAB panel decisions are not binding, the WCAB will consider these decisions to the extent that it finds their reasoning persuasive [see Guitron v. Santa Fe Extruders (2011) 76 Cal. Comp. Cases 228, fn. 7 (Appeals Board En Banc Opinion)]. LexisNexis editorial consultants have deemed this panel decision noteworthy because it does one or more of the following: (1) Establishes a new rule of law, applies an existing rule to a set of facts significantly different from those stated in other decisions, or modifies, or criticizes with reasons given, an existing rule; (2) Resolves or creates an apparent conflict in the law; (3) Involves a legal issue of continuing public interest; (4) Makes a significant contribution to legal literature by reviewing either the development of workers’ compensation law or the legislative, regulatory, or judicial history of a constitution, statute, regulation, or other written law; and/or (5) Makes a contribution to the body of law available to attorneys, claims personnel, judges, the Board, and others seeking to understand the workers’ compensation law of California.

Disposition:  Reconsideration is granted, the January 21, 2020 Findings and Order is rescinded, and a new Findings of Fact and Order is substituted.

Insurance Coverage—Limiting and Restricting Endorsements—Site-Specific Policies—WCAB, granting reconsideration, reversed arbitrator’s finding that Zurich American Insurance Company (Zurich) only provided coverage for applicant’s employer on 5/14/2012 at specific job site, and did not provide coverage for applicant’s industrial injury which occurred at different job site on that date, and WCAB substituted new finding that Zurich policy was not site-specific and covered applicant’s injury, when Zurich presented no evidence that policy was limited or restricted, and without evidence of approved limiting and restricting endorsement WCAB was compelled to find that policy was unlimited and covered all of employer’s construction sites. [See generally Hanna, Cal. Law of Emp. Inj. and Workers’ Comp. 2d §§ 2.50[4][c], 2.60; Rassp & Herlick, California Workers’ Compensation Law, Ch. 3, §§ 3.25, 3.27.]

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PDF of panel decision is below.

Reminder: Board panel decisions are not binding precedent. Always check the subsequent history of a panel decision before you cite to it.