Psychiatric injuries and Mental-physical injuries – LC §3208.3:

Psyche vs Physical

In Stolp v. California Department of Developmental Services 2015 Cal.Wrk.Comp. P.D. LEXIS 508, the WCAB affirmed the WCJ’s finding that the applicant peace officer’s claim for cumulative psychiatric and cardiovascular injury was barred by the lawful, good-faith, nondiscriminatory personnel action defense under LC 3208.3 and pursuant to the analysis in Rolda.

The WCAB found the AME’S reports established that the injured worker’s cardiovascular injury was directly and solely caused by the applicant’s psychiatric condition, which the WCAB found was non-compensable under Section 3208.3(h). Applying the holding in County of San Bernardino v. W.C.A.B. (McCoy) (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 1469, the WCAB concluded that the applicant’s cardiovascular injury, having been solely caused by the applicant’s non-compensable psychiatric injury, was also barred.

In Wang v. Southern California Edison 2015 Cal.Wrk.Comp. P.D. LEXIS 511, The WCAB rescinded the WCJ’s finding that the applicant senior engineer’s claim for industrial heart injury caused by stress from being placed in the employer’s performance improvement program was barred by the lawful, good-faith, nondiscriminatory personnel action defense under Section 3208.3(h).

The WCAB concluded that plain reading of Labor Code §3208.3(h) limits its application to psychiatric injuries, that, although cumulative stress can result in injury, stress alone does not constitute psychiatric injury. Heart conditions by legal definition are physical, not psychiatric, injuries and in order for heart condition to fall within “mental-physical” definition of psychiatric injury evidence must establish that industrial causation of heart condition flows entirely from psychiatric injury. Essentially, the defendant did not have the evidence it needed in this case, nor had “psyche” been plead as a body part. Fortunately, the Court remanded the decision to the WCJ for further development of the record.

We did receive a holding in this case, however: Where a defendant contends that applicant’s claimed physical condition is sole result of non-compensable psychiatric injury, defendant must prove (1) applicant suffered psychiatric injury; (2) the psychiatric injury was not compensable pursuant to Labor Code §3208.3 and (3) the psychiatric condition was sole industrial cause of physical condition.