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Workers' Compensation

California: Navigating the SIBTF Minefield of Burden of Proof

The recent WCAB Noteworthy Panel Decision (NPD) of Harris v. Numac Company; SIBTF, 2020 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 46, provides an excellent roadmap for navigating through the SIBTF minefield of burden of proof. That case dealt with a repairman who had sustained a series of impairments over the years.

Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund—Threshold Requirements for Entitlement to Benefits—Combining Multiple Disabilities—WCAB, amending WCJ's decision, found that (1) applicant who became ill with pneumonia after working in wet and cold weather met threshold requirement in Labor Code § 4751(b) for entitlement to Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF) benefits because current injury resulted in permanent disability of 81 percent when considered alone and without regard to apportionment and adjustments for age and occupation, (2) 34 percent of applicant's nonindustrial lung impairment from sarcoidosis was not labor-disabling prior to applicant's pneumonia and should not be considered in calculating SIBTF benefits, (3) although it is proper to combine successive disabilities by adding pursuant to Bookout v. W.C.A.B. (1976) 62 Cal. App. 3d 214, 132 Cal. Rptr. 864, 41 Cal. Comp. Cases 595, WCJ incorrectly determined permanent disabilities that must be added by separating out applicant's respiratory disorder from his contact dermatitis and arousal disorder, and (4) combined effects of current injury and prior disability from applicant's back injury resulted in 100 percent permanent disability, calculated by adding 65 percent of current disability attributable to industrial injury and 38 percent for prior disability.