The case of Saul Zuniga involves another challenge to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the IMR process. He asserts that the anonymity of the IMR reviewers violates his right to due process and that the IMR statute violates the guarantee of right to appellate review.
After successfully appealing an IMR determination and obtaining an order remanding the matter back to IMR for review by a different physician reviewer, Zuniga filed a discovery motion seeking the disclosure of the IMR reviewers’ identities. The Workers’ Compensation Judge ruled that he could not release the names of the IMR physicians pursuant to Labor Code section 4610.6(f).
Zuniga filed a petition for reconsideration, which was denied. He then filed a petition in the Court of Appeal arguing that the anonymity of the IMR reviewers violates due process and that the IMR statutes violate the guaranteed right to appellate review. The Court of Appeal rejected his constitutional challenge, and affirmed the WCAB in the unpublished case of Zuniga v WCAB.
Zuniga argued that it is a denial of due process for an IMR to refuse to disclose the identities of the reviewers when the decision of the first reviewer is reversed and the dispute is referred to a different reviewer in the organization. He claimed that without knowing the identities of the reviewers, an applicant is deprived of the opportunity to “dispute the findings of the second reviewer on the ground that they were made by the same reviewer whose opinion was reversed.”
The Court of Appeal responded by noting that under Article XIV, Section 4 of the California Constitution, the Legislature “is . . . expressly vested with plenary power unlimited by any provision of this Constitution, to create, and enforce a complete system of worker’s compensation by appropriate legislation.”
As the Court of Appeal held in Stevens, the due process clause of the California Constitution (Cal. Const., art. I, § 7, subd. (a)) does not limit the Legislature’s authority to create a workers’ compensation system. (Stevens, supra, 241 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1092-1093.) Section 4 therefore “supersedes the state Constitution’s due process clause with respect to legislation passed under the Legislature’s plenary powers over the workers’ compensation system.”
The Court also ruled that Zuniga’s federal due process claim fails as well. The Court of Appeal in Stevens concluded that the IMR process, including the confidentiality requirement of section 4610.6, subdivision (f), does not violate the federal due process clause. (Stevens, supra, 241 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1096-1101; see also Ramirez, supra, 10 Cal.App.5th at pp. 227-229.)
The Court of Appeal in Stevens assumed that an IMR determination is state action and implicates a protected property interest, which are prerequisites to a federal due process claim. (Stevens, supra, 241 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1096-1098.) The court concluded that even so, Stevens’s due process claim failed because the IMR process “afford[s] ample process. ‘The core of due process is the right to notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard.’”
When due process must be afforded, the amount of process required is determined by balancing the affected private interest, the risk of erroneous deprivation of this interest, the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute safeguards, and the government’s interest in the process.