People v. Bernal, No. H033723 (Cal. Ct. App. 07/29/09, unpublished).
In an unpublished case of first impression, the California Court of Appeal determined that expenses incurred by an employer in defending a workers' compensation administrative claim for work-related injuries sustained by an employee during an attempted armed robbery were recoverable as victim restitution.
What it means:
Under California's crime victims' compensation law, a business that incurs costs as a result of criminal conduct can recover the costs from the perpetrator. If the business's employees are injured during the criminal conduct, it can also recover the cost of defending their workers' comp claims from the perpetrator.
An armed man beat a restaurant employee with a gun in an attempted robbery while the employee was working. The employee filed workers' compensation claims against the restaurant. The restaurant, which was self-insured, paid the employee's temporary total disability benefits and covered his medical expenses. It also incurred costs in defending these claims. The restaurant filed a claim against the robber for reimbursement under California's victim restitution law. The robber argued the restaurant could not recover the costs of defending the workers' compensation claims because they were not economic losses caused by his conduct. Under California law, noneconomic damages are not recoverable. The court rejected his arguments, noting it was reasonable for the restaurant retain counsel to defend the workers' compensation claims.
The robber argued the restaurant's defense costs were not recoverable as victim restitution because the restaurant voluntarily provided workers' comp coverage. The court pointed out the restaurant was legally obligated to provide the coverage but noted the cost of defending the claims was an actual recoverable expense. It explained that the law provides that economic loss for the purposes of victim restitution includes "actual and reasonable attorney's fees . . . accrued by a private entity on behalf of the victim."
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September 10, 2009
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