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The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) released its next updated Countrywide Court Case Update. The November 2021 edition provides a look at some of the key cases and decisions NCCI’s Legal Team monitors that may impact workers compensation across the states. This report contains updated information on cases previously introduced and presents new cases and decisions including COVID-19-related rulings.

“The Countrywide Court Case Update is a valuable resource that NCCI provides to insurers, regulators, and other industry stakeholders,” said Bill Donnell, NCCI’s President and CEO. “NCCI produces this robust report to inform on state and federal legal developments that can impact the workers compensation system.”

This report, provides insights on topics such as:

– – COVID-19 court cases
– – Workers compensation exclusive remedy
– – Challenges to state adoption of third-party guides
– – Developments in marijuana-including reimbursement and employment-related questions
– – Air ambulance reimbursement: state vs. federal law
– – Additional federal and state developments listed by geographic zone

In California, The California Second Appellate District will consider in See’s Candies, Inc. et al. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, whether WC exclusive remedy bars a lawsuit brought by an employee alleging that the employer’s failure to provide sufficient safeguards against COVID-19 caused the death of the employee’s spouse, who was infected after the employee contracted the virus at work.

And a case headed to the U.S. Supreme Court is significant to California since the state is governed by the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeal.

On August 19, 2020, the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in United States v. Washington 971 F.3d 856 (9th Cir. 2020), as amended on April 15, 2021, affirmed a federal district court decision upholding the constitutionality of a Washington workers compensation statute that creates a presumption of compensability for certain types of diseases contracted by federal contractors working at the Hanford federal nuclear cleanup site.

The court rejected the federal government’s argument that the workers compensation statute violated the federal intergovernmental immunity doctrine, which invalidates state laws that seek to regulate the United States directly or discriminate against the federal government and those with whom it deals.

The court further concluded that the workers compensation statute falls within the scope of a federal law (40 U.S.C. § 3172) that authorizes the states to regulate workers compensation on federal land to the same extent that the states can regulate on nonfederal land.

A petition for Writ of Certiorari in this case was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in September 2021. The essential question presented is whether a state workers’ compensation law that applies exclusively to federal contract workers who perform services at a specified federal facility is barred by principles of intergovernmental immunity, or is instead authorized by 40 U.S.C. 3172(a), which permits the application of state workers’ compensation laws to federal facilities “in the same way and to the same extent as if the premises were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the State.”