California Court of Appeals, Second District, Fourth Division
ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS in mandate and to review a decision of
the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board Los Angeles
County Super. Ct. No. BC690999/ ADJ11235905. Mark C. Kim,
Judge. Petition granted.
& Associates and Murray D. Lawrence; Frances L. Diaz for
Schmitz, Allison J. Fairchild and Peter Ray for Respondent
Workers' Compensation Appeals Board.
appearance for Respondent Superior Court of Los Angeles.
Duffy and John Joseph Duffy for Real Parties in Interest.
to constitutional mandate, the Legislature has vested the
Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) with exclusive
jurisdiction over claims for workers' compensation
benefits. (Cal. Const., art. XIV, § 4, Lab. Code, §
5300.)” (La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Inc. v.
Industrial Indemnity Co. (1994) 9 Cal.4th 27, 35.) Thus,
in an action involving a worker injured during his or her
employment, “the superior court and the WCAB...
‘do not have concurrent jurisdiction over the
whole of the controversy, and one of them will be without
jurisdiction to grant any relief whatsoever, depending upon
whether or not the injuries were... covered by the
workmen's compensation laws.'” (Ibid.)
“The only point of concurrent jurisdiction of the two
tribunals is jurisdiction to determine jurisdiction;
jurisdiction once determined is exclusive, not
case presents the question of which tribunal-the superior
court or the WCAB-had jurisdiction to determine which
tribunal had exclusive jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has
made clear that when a civil action and a workers'
compensation proceeding are concurrently pending, “the
tribunal first assuming jurisdiction” should determine
exclusive jurisdiction. (Scott v. Industrial Acc.
Commission (1956) 46 Cal.2d 76, 81 (Scott).)
Here, the superior court exercised jurisdiction first, so the
court had jurisdiction to decide which tribunal has exclusive
jurisdiction. The court erred by staying the civil case to
allow the WCAB to decide that issue, and the WCAB erred by
proceeding without deference to the superior court. We
therefore grant plaintiffs' petition.
and procedural background
a general rule, an employee who sustains an industrial injury
‘arising out of and in the course of the
employment' is limited to recovery under the workers'
compensation system.” (Torres v. Parkhouse Tire
Service, Inc. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 995, 1001.) “The
underlying premise behind this statutorily created system of
workers' compensation” is a bargain in which
“‘the employer assumes liability for industrial
personal injury or death without regard to fault in exchange
for limitations on the amount of that liability. The employee
is afforded relatively swift and certain payment of benefits
to cure or relieve the effects of industrial injury without
having to prove fault but, in exchange, gives up the wider
range of damages potentially available in tort.'”
(Charles J. Vacanti, M.D., Inc. v. State Comp. Ins.
Fund (2001) 24 Cal.4th 800, 811, citing Shoemaker v.
Myers (1990) 52 Cal.3d 1, 16.) For purposes of this
matter, it is not disputed that the fatal injury at issue
occurred in the course of the decedent's employment.
“[t]he price that must be paid by each employer for
immunity from tort liability is the purchase of a
workers' compensation policy.” (Hernandez v.
Chavez Roofing, Inc. (1991) 235 Cal.App.3d 1092, 1095.)
All employers are required to “secure the payment of
compensation by obtaining insurance from an authorized
carrier or by securing a certificate of consent from the
Director of Industrial Relations to become a
self-insurer.” (Minish v. Hanuman Fellowship
(2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 437, 461; Lab. Code, § 3700.)
“If any employer fails to secure the payment of
compensation, any injured employee or his dependents may
bring an action at law against such employer for damages, as
if this division did not apply.” (Lab. Code, §