by Charles Rondeau

On November 14, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in the case of Elayne Valdez v. Warehouse Demo Services, et al.  In its succinct, eleven page opinion authored by Justice Carol A. Corrigan, the Court put to rest a three-and-one-half year battle regarding the admissibility of non-MPN physician reports in proceedings before the WCAB.  Setting forth the Court’s holding, Justice Corrigan wrote: “We conclude that [Labor Code] section 4616.6 restricts the admission of medical reports only in proceedings under article 2.3 to resolve disputes over diagnosis and treatment within an MPN.”  The Court of Appeal had reached the same conclusion in its underlying decision.
The relatively simple-sounding holding in the Supreme Court’s Valdez decision has significant implications for the California workers’ compensation system going forward.  The employer-insurance carrier community had asked the Court to adopt the WCAB’s position that Labor Code section 4616.6 renders reports of non-MPN physicians inadmissible in all WCAB proceedings. The Supreme Court rejected this attempted expansion of the statute’s clear and unambiguous language, stating: “The Court of Appeal sensibly limited the scope of section 4616.6 to matters arising during the independent medical review process set out in article 2.3.  Reading section 4616.6 broadly to apply to all compensation proceedings is a manifest distortion.” The Supreme Court similarly rejected the defendants’/respondents’ assertion that, once established, an MPN is “the exclusive source of diagnosis and treatment for injured employees”, stating: “The Legislature has imposed no such requirement.”
CAAA is proud to have participated in the Valdez case and agrees with the fair and accurate determination of the Supreme Court.