Friday, February 14, 2020

Mastagni Holstedt Wins Cancer Presumption Exception for Imperial County Probation Officer

In California Workers’ Compensation law, injured workers must normally prove the alleged injury was caused by their job duties (to the standard of a reasonable medical certainty). Over the years, the California legislature has recognized the unique and demanding job duties public safety officers and other first responders face and outlined specific, presumptive injuries. This was done in an effort to make Workers’ Compensation claims and treatment process quicker. One such presumption is cancer. However, each presumption specifically designates who will qualify as a matter of law. These designations are not normally subject to review by the courts. Furthermore, probation officers are categorically excluded in the statutory language of the cancer presumption.

CareersNotwithstanding the statutory exclusion,  Mastagni attorney Brendan B. Rochford successfully argued for an exceptional application of the cancer presumption (William Dallas Jones Cancer Recovery Act (“Act”)), otherwise known as Labor Code §3212.1, to Imperial County Probation Manager Iran Martinez. Raising multiple factors, Mr. Rochford successfully demonstrated Martinez was performing the usual and customary duties of a special agent for the State of California as classified in PC 830.1(b), entitling him to the cancer presumption. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board of San Diego agreed and granted Officer Martinez an exception to the presumption. This should soon result in Martinez receiving the benefits for an accepted cancer claim.

The presumptions set forth in Labor Code §3212.1  apply to peace officers sworn under Penal Code §830.1, not to peace officers sworn under Penal Code §830.5. Probation officers in California are sworn under Penal Code §830.5. Attorneys for the County of Imperial argued Officer Martinez’ sworn status precluded him from eligibility under the Act. Relying on Reeves v. ­­­­WCAB, Mr. Rochford countered that Officer Martinez’ job duties as a Narcotics Task Force Officer/Special Agent were also critical factors in the Court’s analysis.

The Court agreed and found that Officer Martinez’ job duties, along with other circumstances including his training, equipment, and title of “Special Agent Martinez,” entitled him to classification as a special agent under Penal Code §830.1(b). After reviewing the deposition of the doctor, the Court further agreed that Officer Martinez’ entitlement to the presumption should clear the way for Workers’ Compensation benefits due to the nature and timing of his injuries. It is on this basis that an order was issued compelling Worker’s Compensation benefits. The decision recognizes the inequity of ordering a probation officer to perform traditional police duties that place them in harm’s way, without affording them the same Workers’ Compensation benefits enjoyed by other PC 830.1 (b)members of the Task Force.

This case speaks to the importance of not giving up on a serious Workers’ Compensation claim simply due to a denial of the presumption based on Penal Code designation. The actual job duties performed at work are crucial factors in determining whether you will be found eligible for a Workers’ Compensation presumption. A consultation with an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney may be the difference in qualifying for Workers’ Compensation benefits under a public safety presumption.

This decision was recently signed by Workers’ Compensation Judge Wade DiCosmo on January 31, 2020. Defendant enjoys a right to file a Petition for Reconsideration. Updates to be provided accordingly.

Brendan Rochford is a valuable member of the Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. team, successfully litigating Worker’s Compensation claims for public safety officers throughout California. As demonstrated by his success in this case, he is well versed in applicable presumptions. He is based in Rancho Cucamonga and regularly appears at the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Boards in San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Pomona, Van Nuys, Santa Barbara, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Oxnard, and San Luis Obispo.