Home > Uncategorized > Ivan [and] the Terrible [Paper Cut], or is this Psyche Injury “Catastrophic”? [Part 2 of 3]

Ivan [and] the Terrible [Paper Cut], or is this Psyche Injury “Catastrophic”? [Part 2 of 3]

Welcome back, folks!  As you may recall from the last post, my beloved cousin Ivan suffered a horribly debilitating injury when a fluttering piece of paper gave him a paper cut, causing a near-paralyzing fear of all paper products, and thereby precluding him from resuming his brilliant career at the paper factory.  Ivan had come to me for some “family discount” legal advice about whether the resulting psyche injury was compensable.

By way of background, dear readers, Senate Bill 863, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 18, 2012, took effect immediately, except for those sections which set a different activation date.  The newly minted Labor Code section 4660.1 took effect for all injuries sustained on or after January 1, 2013, and subsection (c) provided that there would be no increase in impairment for such psyche injuries unless they were the result of (A) a violent act; or (B) a catastrophic injury.

Labor Code section 4660.1 provides some examples of what might constitute a “catastrophic” event, but doesn’t provide very much by way of a specific test.  So, how are we, poor humble workers’ compensation G[r]eeks supposed to interpret these decrees from up high on Mount Olympus Sacramento?  (If you’ve never been to Sacramento, there’s not much there by way of mountains in the city itself, but I’m hoping you’ll go with me for the analogy).

Well, let’s start with the basics – the code section itself:

Labor Code section 4660.1(c)(B) holds: “[a] catastrophic injury, including, but not limited to, loss of a limb, paralysis, severe burn, or severe head injury.”  Does it have to be as bad as all that?  Well, probably.  After all, doesn’t the list provided by the legislature give us some indication of the significance of the injury necessary to provide a compensable psychiatric injury?

“Catastrophic” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a momentous tragic event ranging from extreme misfortune to utter overthrow or ruin.”  Nor did the term “catastrophic” come into creation with SB-863.

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board has used “catastrophic” to describe injuries rendering an applicant a quadriplegic (Brock v. KS Industries, LP (ADJ8407884)), brain injury resulting in a several-month stay in the hospital, with residual left side weakness, decreased memory, fatigue, and seizures (Mulford v. El Toro RV, Inc. (ADJ7763946)), and lack of use of an applicant’s arms and leg and the need of round-the-clock care (Barragan v. American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises (ADJ7714923)).  So, a paper cut might not make the cut (see what I did there?)…

Now, when I explained all this to my dear cousin Ivan, he seemed, oddly enough, to be encouraged.  To him, the case of the vicious paper cut was actually clear-cut (see what I did there again?): it was catastrophic in that he could no longer return to work at the paper factory, and is now so scared of paper that he shivers every time I jot down a note on my legal pad, and jumps every time my printer spits out a fax.

So, naturally, as a matter of cousinly concern, I asked him just how long of a career in the paper industry was struck down by this sad event.

“When all this happened, I had just got done with my 3-month probation period.  Just think of it, such an excellent career cut short in its prime!”

Poor, poor, Ivan.  Come back on Friday for the exciting conclusion of Ivan [and] the Terrible [Paper Cut]…

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