The California Supreme Court has rejected an appeal of an injured electrician, affirming a lower court’s ruling that an employer is not responsible for permanent disability it did not cause.

The case questioned whether an employer is responsible for all of an injured worker’s permanent disability when there was pre-existing arthritis but the injured worker had no symptoms many years before his 2003 workers’ compensation injury.

The workers’ comp arbitrator initially ruled that apportionment did not apply and awarded employee 76 percent disability. The employer appealed. On appeal, the Workers Compensation Appeals Board over turned the arbitrator’s award and issued an award allocating 15 percent of the permanent disability to the pre-existing arthritis. Employee then appealed the new Workers Compensation Appeals Board award of 65 percent, contending there should be no apportionment of permanent disability because he did not have arthritis symptoms 10 years before his workers’ comp injury. The Court of Appeal rejected the argument and the Supreme Court refused to grant the petition for review.

According to the law firm which represented the employer, this case is an example that the workers’ comp reforms enacted in 2004 are working to correct inequities in the system.

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