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County of San Bernardino v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board and John Mccoy

February 29, 2012

COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO, PETITIONER,
v.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION APPEALS BOARD AND JOHN MCCOY, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKINSTER J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS; petition for writ of review. Order annulled.

County of San Bernardino (County) contends that the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (Board) erred when it awarded benefits to John McCoy for migraine headaches he suffered. It contends that any injuries he suffered were solely caused by the stress and related sequelae resulting from good faith personnel actions. As such, his injuries are not compensable under Labor Code section 3208.3, subdivision (h).*fn1 We agree and, accordingly, we will annul the Board's decision.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

McCoy worked as an automated systems technician for the County. He filed a claim alleging a cumulative trauma injury to his psyche from July 2005 through January 19, 2006. On the first day of trial, he added a claim of injury in the form of migraine headaches.

It was claimed that the injuries arose out of and in the course and scope of his employment due to on-the-job stress caused by friction with his supervisor.

County argued that his psychiatric injuries were caused by lawful, nondiscriminatory, good faith personnel action so that any resulting disability was not compensable under section 3208.3, subdivision (h).

The workers' compensation judge (WCJ) found that the injuries were not compensable as argued by County.

McCoy petitioned the Board for reconsideration, contending that the good faith personnel action provision did not apply to organic injuries, such as migraine headaches.

The WCJ recommended that reconsideration be denied, noting that the migraine headaches were a pre-existing condition and the medical evidence indicated that McCoy experienced only a temporary exacerbation of the headaches due to the stress from the personnel actions. In other words, he did not suffer any compensable injury as a result of the migraine headaches.

The Board, however, granted the petition for reconsideration. While the WCJ did not err in denying benefits for the psychiatric injury, it concluded that section 3208.3, subdivision (h), did not bar compensation for migraines. Moreover, while McCoy may not have suffered permanent disability from his migraines, it concluded he was entitled to temporary disability and medical treatment caused by the migraines. It returned the matter to the WCJ for further proceedings, i.e., to determine temporary disability.

County petitioned for reconsideration of this order, arguing that the good faith personnel action provision should apply because the sole contributing factor that aggravated McCoy's pre-existing migraines was the stress he suffered from the disciplinary actions undertaken in good faith. It asserted that this situation is distinguishable from a case where job stress is inherent in the job.

The Board denied reconsideration. It noted that under section 3208.3, subdivision (a), a psychiatric injury is defined as one that is diagnosed using the terminology and criteria of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and migraine headaches are not classified as a psychiatric injury in this manual. It follows that a good faith ...


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