Case name: Beverly Hilton Hotel, Hilton Hotels Corp. v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board and Samson Boganim, No. B212205 (Cal. Ct. App. 08/26/09).
Ruling: The California Court of Appeal annulled a decision of the California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board granting a hotel security officer entitlement to vocational rehabilitation benefits.
What it means:
In California, when a worker is in the process of litigating his benefits entitlement and a final judgment has not been entered, his rights are not yet vested. If a particular workers' compensation law is repealed while the litigation is pending, all pending actions are stopped and the reviewing court must dispose of the case under the law in force when its decision is rendered.
Summary: A workers' compensation judge determined a hotel security officer was entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits and services for injuries he sustained to his neck and back. The hotel contested his entitlement to vocational rehabilitation benefits. While the matter was being litigated but before a final decision was entered, that provision of the law was repealed. The hotel argued that the repeal terminated any rights to vocational rehabilitation services, that there was no savings clause concerning the law, and that the court had to apply the law in effect at the time of its decision. The appellate court agreed with the hotel. The court explained that when a pending action rests solely on the workers' compensation law and no rights have been vested, a repeal of the law without a savings clause "stops all pending actions where the repeal finds them." The court further noted awards are only final when the entire process, including appellate review, is concluded. In annulling the board's decision, the court determined that the repeal of the law terminated any rights to vocational rehabilitation benefits or services provided for by orders and awards that were not final before the date of the repeal.
The court pointed out that the legislature had included specific dates for that provision of the vocational rehabilitation law to apply and had not extended or deleted the dates, although it could have done so. When this happens, subsequent legislation enacted prior to a final judgment annuls the pending worker's compensation awards.
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September 28, 2009
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