Patricia Harrison claimed injury to the right shoulder and neck on March 29, 2019 while employed as a child support officer II by Los Angeles County Child Support.
The parties stipulated that she had a prior industrial injury on November 30, 2011, which was resolved in March 2019 by Stipulations with Request for Award. This 2011 injury caused 41% permanent disability, 24% of which was attributed to the cervical spine.
The parties stipulated at trial to the prior award for applicant’s 2011 injury. The issues at trial included permanent disability, apportionment and the applicability of section 4664 for the prior 2011 award. Exhibits admitted at trial included two reports from applicant’s primary treating physician and three reports from Dr. Halbridge, who was the QME in the 2019 case, were offered as joint exhibits. None of the medical reporting from the prior 2011 injury were provided as evidence at trial.
Dr. Halbridge was provided with the reporting of the agreed medical evaluator (AME), Dr. Alexander Angerman, with respect to the 2011 injury. He apportioned 45% of permanent disability with regard to the cervical spine to the prior fall down the stairs at work in 2011. Ten percent (10%) of permanent disability with regard to the cervical spine was apportioned to the natural progression of multilevel cervical spondylosis.
The WCJ found that applicant’s injury to the right shoulder and neck had caused 30% permanent disability, and found that 20% of applicant’s disability for the neck was attributable to other factors. The award was affirmed in the panel decision of Harrison v. Los Angeles County Child Support. ADJ12332626 (November 2022).
On reconsideration the County of Los Angeles contends that the WCJ’s decision failed to properly address apportionment under Labor Code sections 4663 and 4664. Specifically, they contend that there must be apportionment to applicant’s prior disability award for the neck under section 4664. Alternatively, defendant contends that there must be 45% apportionment to the prior injury under section 4663.
The employer holds the burden of proof to show apportionment of permanent disability. To meet this burden, the employer must demonstrate that, based upon reasonable medical probability, there is a legal basis for apportionment. “Apportionment is a factual matter for the appeals board to determine based upon all the evidence.” (Gay v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (1979) 96 Cal.App.3d 555, 564 [44 Cal.Comp.Cases 817)
In order to prove apportionment for a prior permanent disability award is warranted under section 4664, the employer must first prove the existence of the prior permanent disability award. Then, having established by this proof that the permanent disability on which that award was based still exists, the employer must prove the extent of the overlap, if any, between the prior disability and the current disability.
The parties stipulated at trial that there was a prior award from March 2019 for applicant’s 2011 injury. This constitutes evidence of the existence of a prior award for the cervical spine.
“Overlap is not proven merely by showing that the second injury was to the same body part because the issue of overlap requires a consideration of the factors of disability or work limitations resulting from the two injuries, not merely the body part injured.”
Defendant contends that although the AME for the 2011 injury rated applicant’s cervical spine impairment using the DRE method and Dr. Halbridge rated the spinal impairment using the ROM method, this is irrelevant per Hom v. City and County of San Francisco (April 15, 2020; ADJ10658104) 2020 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 124
“None of the medical reports from applicant’s 2011 injury were placed in evidence. The evidentiary record in this matter thus does not contain Dr. Angerman’s reporting and we are unable to compare his evaluation of impairment to Dr. Halbridge’s reporting.”
” In Hom, the AME had expressly opined that apportionment per section 4664 can be applied. In this matter, the QME Dr. Halbridge did not provide any discussion regarding how applicant’s prior permanent disability for the cervical spine overlaps with her current permanent disability for this body part. Consequently, we agree with the WCJ that defendant failed to meet its burden of proof to show overlap and apportionment per section 4664 is not warranted.”