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California: Pre-Existing Disability for Purposes of SIBTF Benefits

September 25, 2019 (1 min read)

Labor Code Section 4751 governs eligibility for Subsequent Injury Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF) benefits. SIBTF provides an important supplemental benefit to regular workers’ compensation benefits for those individuals who suffer a permanent partial disability and then suffer a subsequent industrial injury that results in additional permanent disability. There has been a great deal of litigation surrounding the question of how the employee establishes the pre-existing “labor disabling” disability in order to qualify for SIBTF benefits.

Recently, a panel of commissioners with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) addressed this very question in Enriquez v. County of Santa Barbara, 2019 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 265. The panel in Enriquez observed that the requirement that there be a pre-existing “labor disabling” permanent disability under Labor Code Section 4751 is the very same requirement that existed for purposes of establishing apportionment of permanent disability under the previous Labor Code Section 4750.

Indeed, in 2004, Senate Bill 899 repealed Labor Code Section 4750. Prior to Senate Bill 899, Labor Code Section 4750 provided that an employee who suffered a permanent injury could not receive compensation that was a consequence of a previous permanent disability or physical impairment. The panel specifically noted Labor Code Section 4750 and those cases interpreting Section 4750 were instructive in determining whether a pre-existing permanent disability exists under Labor Code Section 4751.

In conclusion, the panel in Enriquez correctly noted that even though Labor Code Section 4750 was repealed in 2004, understanding this prior statute as well as the cases interpreting it, is critical to understanding what constitutes a qualifying pre-existing “labor disabling” disability. Enriquez should be a must read for any practitioner involved with SIBTF issues.

Practitioners should check the subsequent history of any cases before citing to them.

Any information or opinions contained in this commentary are not necessarily endorsed by LexisNexis® or its affiliates.

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