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On March 4, 2022, a 78 page Petition for Writ of Mandate was filed against the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board by a representative group of five California injured workers, all of whom claim they have been denied their constitutionally guaranteed right to speedy and unencumbered resolution of their claims for workers’ compensation benefits, as a result of the WCAB’s issuance of what they call “grant and study” orders in response to petitions for reconsideration seeking review of the trial level decisions in their cases.

The petition requests that Court of Appeal find that the “grant and study” procedure is unconstitutional and unlawful, revoke all of the “grant and study” orders issued by the WCAB, and order the WCAB to provide a timetable within which it will render final decisions in all cases where such “grant and study” orders have been issued.

This lead case is entitled Michele Earley, et al. v. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board of the State of California, et al., Case No. B318842, and has been assigned to Division of 8 of the Second District Court of Appeal.

The Labor Code requires that petitions for reconsideration be decided by the WCAB within 60 days. However, they say that in many cases the Board, following an unwritten, self-adopted policy and procedure, issues so-called “grant and study” orders which extend that time period indefinitely.

To make matters worse,” they say, “Petitioners are precluded from seeking adjudication of any further disputes which may arise until the WCAB finally issues its final decision regarding the issues placed on indefinite hold by the ‘grant and study’ orders issued in their cases.”

In response to a recent public records act request, they claim the WCAB provided data demonstrating that it has issued such “grant and study” orders in over 500 cases within a 3-year period alone, many of which remain undecided for years at time.

In the Earley case for example, her trial took place on February 26, 2020, and an award issued in her favor on May 14. However the carrier petitioned for reconsideration of that award. Then on June 29, 2020, the WCAB issued its Opinion and Order Granting Reconsideration “to further study the factual and legal issues presented in this case.” And as of the date of filing the Petition for Writ of Mandate (March 4, 2022) no decision had been issued. (However, the WCAB panel did issue an opinion on March 15, 2022).

According to the docket entries in the case now pending in the Court of Appeal, a number of Amicus parties have been allowed to participate in the case, mostly insurance carriers, and one prominent lien claimant.

The other four petitioning workers allege similar timelines as illustration of long delays in adjudicating their cases on reconsideration.

And on May 4, 2022, the Court of Appeal issued an Order to Show Cause directing the WCAB to show good cause why the relief sought by these injured workers should not be granted. The WCAB is directed to file it’s response by June 3, 2022, and the Petitioners, real parties in interest, and amicus curiae have until June 20, 2022 to reply.

This will be a closely followed case, as the “grand and study” orders have issued in reconsideration cases filed by both applicants and defendants for decades.