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Knox: 2nd DCA Provides Minimal Relief in Decision on 'Grant-for-Study' Challenge

  • State: California

In its soon-to-be-released decision in Michelle Earley et al. v. WCAB, Case No. B318842, the California 2nd District Court of Appeals rejects the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board's "grant-for-study" procedure, whereby the commissioners grant reconsideration without identifying the facts or issues that prompted the exercise of appellate jurisdiction.

Jason Knox

Jason Knox

While this decision confirms that the appeals board has long acted outside of its statutory authority, the Court of Appeals' decision offered surprisingly limited relief for the injustices that caused the petitioners to seek a writ of mandamus in the first place.

Specifically, the Court of Appeals declined to grant — or even directly discuss — the petitioners' request that it compel the appeals board to issue final decisions in the more than 500 cases brought to a screeching halt by the board's inaction following a grant of reconsideration. Having glossed over this crucial aspect of the petitioners' plea, the Court of Appeals leaves unanswered questions concerning the recourse that is available to the parties whose appeals have sat unresolved — some for upwards of three years — after the appeals board granted reconsideration.*fn1

The Court of Appeals' prescriptive findings may also have little practical effect on the unbounded periods that the appeals board has established for returning litigation to the trial court after granting reconsideration.

Specifically, the Court of Appeals directed that any future grants of reconsideration be written and reflect the facts and reasons why the majority of the assigned commissioners decided that reconsideration was appropriate. In theory, this guidance will prevent the appeals board from granting reconsideration as a ploy to buy itself more time to consider the need for it to exercise its appellate jurisdiction; in practice, however, the only change may be that the commissioners spend a bit more time inserting case-specific details into stock language that the Court of Appeals considered inadequate to satisfy the requirements of Section 5908.5.

1. Considering the Court of Appeals' refusal to offer direct relief to the injured non-parties and its failure to establish guidelines that might prevent future litigation from becoming log jammed on appeal, the most lasting consequence of the Earley decision may be an explosion in the number of petitions for writs of mandamus that litigants file in hopes that the appeals board will finally return their claims to the trial judge for final resolution. In this respect, only time will tell.

Jason Knox is a certified specialist in workers’ compensation law and partner at work comp defense firm D’Andre Law.

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