HR Management & Compliance

New Workers’ Comp Case Is Good News for Employers

Yesterday, we looked at a case in which a brand-new agricultural worker fell off a high ladder, sustaining both physical and psychiatric injuries. Normally a worker has to be with an employer for at least six months to recover for psychiatric injuries—what did the court conclude in this case?

For the case background, click here.

Home Depot Case Was Different, Court Concludes

The court distinguished a case in which a rack of lumber suddenly fell on a Home Depot manager-trainee’s leg while he was in a store aisle.

For one thing, that accident occurred in a store aisle that was open to the public, making it safe to assume that incidents of falling lumber were “quite rare.”

Moreover, the injury happened when the wall shelf holding up the rack of lumber collapsed without warning. The lumber presumably would have struck anyone who happened to be in the aisle at the time.


Your complete reference guide to workers’ comp in California—find out more!


Garcia’s injury, on the other hand, didn’t occur in a public area or an area shielded from the typical hazards of his job. To the contrary, it was sustained in the avocado grove where he and his coworkers were picking fruit from high trees while standing on tall ladders.

A fall under these circumstances couldn’t be described as an uncommon, unusual, and totally unexpected occurrence. Rather, it was a hazard of performing work above ground level.

The Burden Is on the Employee

Perhaps most notably, the Court of Appeals made clear that it wasn’t up to the employer to introduce evidence that such falls weren’t extraordinary but an industry hazard.

The burden was on the employee to show that his psychiatric injury was caused by a sudden and extraordinary employment event that triggered the exception.

(State Compensation Insurance Fund v W.C.A.B. (Garcia), Calif. Court of Appeals (Dist. 2) No. B235258, 2012)

Your Complete Guide to Workers’ Comp in California

Dealing with workers’ comp questions can be stressful and time-consuming for HR. What can make it easier? Our exclusive HR Management & Compliance Report Workers’ Compensation in California: A Complete Guide for California Employers.

Workers’ comp is one of the few areas of employment law that’s almost entirely governed at the state level. And it’s complicated, to say the least:

  • What qualifies as a covered injury or illness?
  • Should you self-insure?
  • Who’s entitled to workers’ comp benefits?
  • What do you need to know about the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF)?
  • How are premiums calculated—and how can you keep yours as low as possible?
  • What should be included in your Injury & Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)?
  • What workers’ comp notices must you distribute to employees—and when?
  • How do you properly calculate benefits for injured employees?
  • What should your return-to-work program look like?
  • How does workers’ comp interact with other state and federal leave laws, including FMLA/CFRA and ADA/FEHA?
  • What can you do to reduce the risk of workers’ comp disputes—and fraud?
  • How should you respond to a workers’ comp-related lawsuit?

Fortunately, answers to all of these questions and more are covered in depth in our comprehensive, 136-page HR Management & Compliance Report Workers’ Compensation in California: A Complete Guide for California Employers.

This exclusive report includes everything you need to know for successful management of your company’s workers’ comp program. Order your copy today—your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. 

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