John Larkin sustained injuries while employed as a police officer by the City of Marysville. The WCJ determined that Larkin’s earnings to be $1,008.47 per week and that he was not entitled to the maximum indemnity levels available under Labor Code 4458.2.
Labor Code section 4458.2 provides workers’ compensation benefits to certain peace officers injured in the line of duty. The terms of the statute apply to any “active peace officer of any department as described in Section 3362 [who] suffers injury or death while in the performance of his or her duties as a peace officer.” (§ 4458.2.) The statute likewise provides benefits to those injured while performing services as part of a so-called posse comitatus – a group of citizens convened by law enforcement authorities for certain limited law enforcement purposes, in accordance with section 3366 – and to certain reserve peace officers as described in section 3362.5. (§ 4458.2.)
Larkin argued in his petition for reconsideration that the plain language of the statutes entitled regularly sworn, salaried peace officers to maximum indemnity levels. The Board disagreed, finding the WCJ’s reasoning persuasive and denying Larkin’s petition. In affirming the Board’s order, the Court of Appeal interpreted section 4458.2 to avoid what it deemed an “absurd result.” It concluded that the policy considerations underlying section 4458.2 and section 3362 reflected a legislative interest in encouraging volunteer service to support police and fire agencies.
The California Supreme Court granted review to determine whether the benefits provided under section 4458.2 extend to both volunteer peace officers and to regularly sworn, salaried officers. It affirmed the Court of Appeal in the case of Larkin v WCAB.
In light of the text of sections 4458.2 and 3362, their place in the structure of the statutory scheme, and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board’s interpretation of the statute, the Supreme Court concluded that section 4458.2 does not extend maximum indemnity levels to regularly sworn, salaried officers. This conclusion is bolstered by a review of the legislative history governing the relevant statutory provisions. The Court of Appeal’s judgment was affirmed.