Co. of Riverside v. WCABAnnotate this Case
Petitioner County of Riverside (the County) challenged Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) findings that the application for adjudication of claim by respondent Peter Sylves was timely filed, and that Labor Code section 5500.5(a) did not bar liability on the County’s part. Sylves was employed by the County as a deputy sheriff. He took a service retirement and then worked for the Pauma Police Department on a reservation belonging to the Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians, a federally recognized tribe. Sylves’ employment with the Pauma Police Department lasted from 2010, through 2014. Sylves filed an application for adjudication of claim on July 16, 2014. He claimed a continuous trauma for “hypertension, GERDS [gastroesophageal reflux disease], left shoulder, low back and both knees.” In 2015, the WCJ found: “Pursuant to Labor Code section 5500.5, applicant’s continuous trauma is limited to the last year of injurious exposure, even if it is with the Pauma Tribal Police.” The WCJ found that Sylves’s knee and left shoulder injuries, his GERDS, and his sleep disorder were not compensable injuries arising in and out of employment. However, he also found that Sylves’ hypertension and back injury were compensable and arose from employment with the County. With respect to the statute of limitations, the WCAB explained that the time in which to file a claim did not begin to run until a doctor told him the symptoms for which he had been receiving treatment were industrially related; since medical confirmation did not occur until 2013, Sylves’ 2014 application was timely. The WCAB further found that section 5500.5 “is not a Statute of Limitations but provides for a supplemental proceeding in which multiple defendants have an opportunity to apportion liability.” Finally, it agreed with Sylves that section 5500.5 could not limit liability to the Pauma Police Department in this case because the WCAB lacked jurisdiction over the tribe. Essentially, the WCAB determined that the County “failed to meet its burden of proof on the Statute of Limitations defenses raised herein.” Finding no reversible error in the WCAB's decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed.