Menu Close

A WCJ found Dean Fitzpatrick “100 percent permanently totally disabled” as a result of injury to his heart and psyche sustained during the course of his employment as a correctional officer. The award was based on the reports of two doctors regarding Fitzpatrick’s injury — Peter Chang-Sing for his heart and Richard Lieberman for his psyche.

Chang-Sing rated Fitzpatrick’s WPI for his heart at 75 percent and his resulting permanent disability at 97 percent. Lieberman rated Fitzpatrick’s GAF score at 45, resulting in 40 percent WPI, and permanent disability of 71 percent for his psyche. It is undisputed that, combining the 97 percent and 71 percent ratings under the Combined Values Chart Fitzpatrick’s permanent disability scheduled rating is 99 percent — permanent partial disability.

Thus Fitzpatrick’s permanent disability scheduled rating is 99 percent — permanent partial disability.

In the July 16, 2015 report, Dr. Lieberman felt that applicant was”on strict psychiatric grounds totally and permanently disabled” . . . Dr. Lieberman elaborated further: “I am dubious that this patient will return to work in any capacity.”

The ALJ concluded: “Based upon [Fitzpatrick’s] credible testimony, the medical reports of Dr. Chang-Sing and Dr. Lieberman, and in accordance with the facts (see Labor Code §4662(b)), it is found that applicant is permanently totally disabled.” The administrative law judge did not mention or discuss the combined rating under the 2005 Schedule. No vocational expert presented evidence in the case.

The Board affirmed the Decision in its opinion and order denying the petition for reconsideration. However, the Court of Appeal reversed in the published case of Department of Corrections v WCAB (Dean Fitzpatrick).

The question presented on appeal is whether the Board correctly interpreted and applied sections 4660 and 4662, subdivision (b).

“We easily harmonize sections 4660 and 4662, subdivision (b). Section 4662, subdivision (b), provides that, in nonconclusively presumed permanent total disability cases (i.e., those cases not enumerated in section 4662, subdivision (a)), permanent total disability may be found ‘in accordance with the fact.’ This section does not, however, address how such a determination shall be made; read plainly, it merely provides that a determination of permanent total disability shall be made on the facts of the case.”

Section 4660 addresses how the determination on the facts shall be made in each case for injuries occurring before January 1, 2013. Indeed, section 4660 expressly applies to the determination of “the percentages of permanent disability.” A “final permanent disability rating” is obtained by going through the steps outlined in the 2005 Schedule.

Our interpretation of sections 4660 and 4662, subdivision (b), is squarely at odds with the Board panel’s interpretation of those statutes in Jaramillo (on which the administrative law judge and the Board relied in this case).” [Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (Jaramillo) (2012) 77 Cal.Comp.Cases 445 [writ. den.].

We thus disapprove of Jaramillo with respect to its analysis on this issue, and annul the Board’s Opinion for the same reason.