A unanimous panel of Commissioners Dodd, Schmitz, and Razo has issued a decision in the case of Glick v. Knight Transportation Holdings, Inc. upholding an Award of up to 240 weeks of Temporary Disability indemnity benefits to an applicant based on Labor Code § 4656 (c)(3)(F), based on an extremely broad interpretation of the phrase "high-velocity eye injury".
The applicant was employed as a truck driver by defendant Knight-Swift Transportation. On November 26, 2018, he was struck by a motor vehicle while crossing a street. The vehicle was traveling at approximately 30 miles per hour at the time of impact, and the applicant was thrown approximately 10 feet. Among the numerous injuries sustained were fractures to the right and left temporal bones.
The parties utilized a QME in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation who determined that the applicant's "number one problem" was vision difficulty. A QME in ophthalmology also diagnosed vision issues including double vision which required eye muscle surgery.
Defendant ceased payment of Temporary Disability indemnity benefits on 11/24/2020 (based on the 104-week cap in LC § 4656 (c)(2). Applicant requested an Expedited Hearing on the issue, arguing that he had sustained a "high-velocity injury" to the eyes which entitled him to an extended period of benefits pursuant to LC § 4656 (c)(3)(F).
On December 21, 2020, the Workers' Compensation Judge issued a Findings & Award, finding that the applicant had sustained an injury to the "ophthalmology/vision/eye" caused by a "high-velocity impact", and that the applicant was entitled to ongoing temporary disability pursuant to LC § 4656 (c)(3)(F).
Defendant filed a Petition for Reconsideration, arguing that the "plain language or common meaning" of the term "high-velocity eye injuries" requires "at least some impact with the eye". The defendant cited the WCAB's "common sense" interpretation of "amputation" in its analysis of LC § 4656 (c)(2)(C) [Cruz v. Mercedes-Benz of San Francisco (2007) 72 CCC 1281]. The petition was denied.
In their decision, the Commissioners cited Glover v. ACCU Construction (2009) 2009 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. Lexis 301, noting that in that case the applicant was awarded additional Temporary Disability benefits as a result of being struck by a metal fragment that was thrown by a mulching mower. The metal fragment entered the applicant's nostril and fractured the eye socket, but did not directly impact the eye ball.
In reaching their decision in this case, the Commissioners apply a very broad interpretation of the phrase "high-velocity eye injuries" to include an injury caused by "quickness of motion, rapidity of movement or speed imparted to something" that results in medical treatment to the eye. It does not require injury to the organ of the eye.
Apparently realizing the impact this decision might have, the Commissioners' opinion is careful to note that their analysis "is limited to the facts of this case".
It does not appear that the Defendant has petitioned for a Writ of Review of this decision.
The WCAB's decision is found here.