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Court of Appeal reverses judgment in first impression workers’ compensation exclusivity case and a second appeal regarding attorneys’ fees

Perrillo v. Picco & Presley (2007) 157 Cal.App.4th 914 (California Second District Court of Appeal, Division One). [published]. In 1996, several individuals filed both workers’ compensation claims against their employer and a related civil suit against a third party for injuries allegedly sustained through toxic contamination of their workplace. They hired a physician to serve as an expert, agreeing that he would hold both workers’ compensation liens and a lien on any recovery in the civil case. The expert submitted his reports to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board and received payment on some of the workers’ compensation cases. When the workers’ attorneys informed the expert that workers’ compensation was his exclusive remedy, the expert withdrew his pending workers’ compensation liens and insisted on being paid from the civil settlement. Ultimately, the expert sued the workers’ attorneys for breach of the civil lien contracts, claiming that workers’ compensation was not his exclusive remedy because he was hired for the civil case. The trial court agreed. Representing the workers’ attorneys on appeal, GMSR attorneys Kent Richland and Jeffrey Raskin and former GMSR attorney Laura Boudreau argued, as a matter of first impression, that workers’ compensation is an expert’s exclusive remedy for medical-legal services that overlap workers’ compensation and civil cases, and that the expert’s civil liens were therefore unenforceable. Perrillo v. Picco & Presley (2007) 2007 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 9860 (California Second District Court of Appeal, Division One). [unpublished]. In a separate but related appeal regarding the portions of the judgment everyone agreed survived workers’ compensation exclusivity, GMSR attorneys argued that the expert was not entitled to the more than half million dollars in attorneys’ fees awarded by the trial court, while the expert’s attorneys sought even greater fees. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on both counts, authoring a published decision eliminating all damages for workers’ compensation-related services and an unpublished decision eliminating all attorneys’ fees.