California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division
PROCEEDINGS; writ of review. WCAB Case No. ADJ9538021 Order
Office of Louis D. Seaman and Louis D. Seaman for Petitioner.
appearance for Respondent Workers' Compensation Appeals
Offices of Lawrence R. Whiting and William G. Cotter for
Respondent Peter G. Sylves.
McKINSTER, P. J.
County of Riverside (the County), challenges findings by the
Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) finding that
the application for adjudication of claim by respondent,
Peter G. Sylves, was timely filed, and that Labor
5500.5, subdivision (a) (section 5500.5(a)), did not bar
liability on the County's part. The order of the WCAB is
affirmed for the reasons we state post.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
December 12, 1998, to October 28, 2010, Sylves was employed
by the County as a deputy sheriff. He took a service
retirement and then worked for the Pauma Police Department on
a reservation belonging to the Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians
(Pauma Band), which is a federally recognized Indian tribe.
Sylves's employment with the Pauma Police Department
lasted from December 28, 2010, through July 4, 2014.
filed an application for adjudication of claim on July 16,
2014. He claimed a continuous trauma for “hypertension,
GERDS [gastroesophageal reflux disease], left shoulder, low
back and both knees.”
8, 2015, the parties appeared before a workers'
compensation judge (WCJ) for adjudication of Sylves's
claim. On July 6, 2015, the WCJ issued his findings of fact.
Under the heading titled “Statute of Limitations,
” he found: “Pursuant to Labor Code section
5500.5, applicant's continuous trauma is limited to the
last year of injurious exposure, even if it is with the Pauma
Tribal Police.” The WCJ found that Sylves's knee
and left shoulder injuries, his GERDS, and his sleep disorder
were not compensable injuries arising in and out of
employment. However, he also found that Sylves's
hypertension and back injury were compensable and arose from
employment with the County.
and the County both moved for reconsideration of the
WCJ's ruling. The County attacked the evidence allegedly
showing that Sylves suffered from labor-disabling
hypertension or back problems during his employment with the
county, and it argued section 5500.5 meant that liability
could only be imposed against the Pauma Police Department. In
his motion, Sylves argued that section 5500.5 has nothing to
do with the statute of limitations, that the County failed to
meet its burden of proving he failed to comply with the
limitations period in section 5405, and that section 5500.5
did not limit liability to the Pauma Police Department
because the Pauma Band is a federally recognized tribe over
which the WCAB has no jurisdiction.
WCAB granted both petitions for reconsideration “to
further study the factual and legal issues.” It then
filed an opinion and decision after reconsideration in which
it found “substantial medical evidence support[ing]
industrial injury to [Sylves's] left shoulder, bilateral
knees, GERD and sleep disorder.” With respect to the
statute of limitations, the WCAB explained that the time in
which to file a claim did not begin to run until a doctor
told him the symptoms for which he had been receiving
treatment were industrially related; since medical
confirmation did not occur until 2013, Sylves's 2014
application was timely. The WCAB further found that section
5500.5 “is not a Statute of Limitations but provides
for a supplemental proceeding in which multiple defendants
have an opportunity to apportion liability.” Finally,
it agreed with Sylves that section 5500.5 cannot limit
liability to the Pauma Police Department in this case because
the WCAB lacks jurisdiction over the tribe. In conclusion,
the decision after reconsideration made factual findings that
Sylves, “while employed during the period 12/27/1998
through 10/28/2010, as a Deputy Sheriff, by the County of
Riverside, sustained injury arising out of and in the course
of employment in the form of” hypertension, injuries to
the lower back, left shoulder, both knees, GERD, and a sleep
disorder, as well as that the County “failed to meet
its burden of proof on the Statute of Limitations defenses
petition followed. We granted review on April 27, 2016, in
order to provide better clarity regarding ...