Duncan v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.Annotate this Case
Respondent Denise Duncan sued Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Wal-Mart) for personal injuries she sustained at one of Wal-Mart’s stores while acting within the course and scope of her employment with Acosta, Inc. (Acosta). The trial court entered judgment finding Wal-Mart liable for Duncan’s injuries. Under Labor Code sections 3852 and 3856, appellant Hartford Accident & Indemnity Company (Hartford) applied for a lien on Duncan’s judgment to obtain reimbursement for the workers’ compensation benefits it paid Duncan, including medical expenses and temporary disability payments for lost wages. Although the judgment included compensation for Duncan’s medical expenses, it did not include compensation for Duncan’s lost wages because she did not seek those damages at trial. The court granted Hartford a lien on Duncan’s judgment, but reduced the lien amount to exclude the indemnity payments for lost wages. Hartford appealed the trial court’s postjudgment order, arguing the court exceeded its authority by reducing the lien amount for any item other than reasonable attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeal agreed because section 3856’s plain language and the case law applying it granted Hartford a first lien on the judgment in the amount it paid Duncan for worker’s compensation benefits. Duncan’s choice not to seek lost wages at trial did not diminish Hartford’s lien rights under the workers’ compensation statutory scheme.