Menu Close

Christopher Torres suffered industrial injury to his left knee while working for Contra Costa Schools Insurance Group as a claims examiner in 1998, causing 27% permanent disability and need for future medical treatment. It in 2000, he also sustained industrial injury to his neck and spine causing a need for medical treatment.

For a period of time, defendant authorized the Duragesic patches and Norco prescribed by applicant’s primary treating physician, Douglas Grant, M.D., to relieve the pain caused by applicant’s industrial injuries. However, after Dr. Grant requested authorization to refill additional prescriptions for Duragesic patches and Norco in June 2013, defendant’s UR physician Claudio Palma, M.D., issued a UR determination certifying the request for Norco, but conditionally denying certification of the request for Duragesic patches.

Applicant disagreed with the UR determination and submitted an application for IMR on August 2, 2013. On August 15, 2013, applicant’s attorney sent the IMR organization an additional report by Dr. Grant concerning applicant’s history and use of Duragesic patches.

An IMR determination dated November 12, 2013 was sent to applicant’s attorney, stating without further explanation that Duragesic patches were “not medically necessary and appropriate.” On December 18, 2013, applicant’s attorney filed an appeal of the IMR determination regarding the Duragesic patches, writing that the “reviewer failed to review documents submitted by applicant and applicant’s representative before making the determination,” contrary to applicant’s right to due process. Although the IMR appeal was signed by the attorney, it was not verified. Following submission of the matter the WCJ issued his February 18, 2014 decision dismissing the IMR appeal for lack of verification.

The WCAB reversed the dismissal and remanded the case to allow applicant a second chance to file a verified appeal in the panel decision of Torres v Contra Costa Schools Insurance Group and SCIF.

Labor Code section 4610.6(h) provides that a determination of the administrative director pursuant to that section “may be reviewed only by a verified appeal from the medical review determination of the administrative director.” That statutory verification requirement is consistent with Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board Rules of Practice and Procedure, Rule 10450(a), which addresses the form of requests for action filed with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), and provides that all such requests “shall be made by petition.” (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 10450(a).) Rule 10450(e) in turn requires that all such petitions be verified under penalty of perjury. Applicant’s December 13, 2013 IMR appeal includes no affidavit by either the applicant or his attorney verifying the contents of the appeal under penalty of perjury as required by section 4610.6(h) and Rule 10450.7 Rule 10450(e) plainly provides that an unverified petition filed with the WCAB may be summarily dismissed.

However, it has long been recognized that lack of verification does not necessitate automatic dismissal of a nonconforming pleading. (United Farm Workers v. Agricultural Labor Relations Bd. (1985) 37 Cal.3d 912, 915; Mullane v. Industrial Acc. Com. (1931) 118 Cal.App. 283, 286 [17 I.A.C. 328, 330]; Wings West Airlines v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (Nebelon) (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 1047 [51 Cal.Comp.Cases 609]; Katzin v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 703, 712, fn.3 [57 Cal.Comp.Cases 230].). Failure to correct a lack of verification within a reasonable time after receiving notice of the defect allows dismissal of the nonconforming petition. (Lucena v. Diablo Auto Body (2000) 65 Cal.Comp.Cases 1425 [significant panel decision]; Smith v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (2001) 66 Cal.Comp.Cases 788 (writ den.); see also Connor v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1980) 45 Cal.Comp.Cases 370 (writ den.).).

In this case, defendant raised the issue of lack of verification of the IMR appeal as an issue at the expedited hearing on January 9, 2014. However, applicant did not seek to cure the defect before the appeal was dismissed by the WCJ for lack of verification or at anytime thereafter. Applicant’s failure to timely cure the verification defect after receiving notice of it supports the WCJ’s dismissal of the IMR appeal. However, the WCAB also recognized that the verification requirement in section 4610.6(h) is relatively new, and that there is a strong public policy favoring the disposition of cases on their merits that is consistent with our mandate under Article XIV, section 4 of the California constitution to “accomplish substantial justice in all cases.” If applicant cures the procedural defect in the IMR appeal within 20 days after service of this decision by filing an appropriate verification or amended appeal with the necessary verification, the WCJ should address the substance of the IMR appeal.