RIVERSIDE, Calif. — An appeals court recently ruled to uphold the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board findings in a case of continuous trauma.

The 4th District Court of Appeals filed its ruling on County of Riverside vs. Peter Sylves on March 24. From 1998 to 2010, according to court documents, Sylves was employed by Riverside County as a deputy sheriff and then took a service retirement. From 2010 to 2014, Sylves got a job with the Pauma Police Department on a reservation, which belongs to the Pauma Band of Luiseno, a tribe recognized by the federal government

Sylves filed an application for adjudication of claim on July 16, 2014, claiming a continuous trauma for “hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux disease, left shoulder, low back and both knees.”

On July 6, 2015, the workers' compensation judge issued that “[p]ursuant to Labor Code section 5500.5, applicant’s continuous trauma is limited to the last year of injurious exposure, even if it is with the Pauma Tribal Police.”

The judge found that Sylves’ knee and left-shoulder injuries, his reflux disease, and his sleep disorder were not compensable injuries. However, he also found that Sylves’ hypertension and back injury were compensable and came about from employment with the county. Sylves and the county both moved for reconsideration of the judge’s ruling.

The WCAB granted the petitions for reconsideration in order “to further study the factual and legal issues.” The board then filed an opinion and decision that found “substantial medical evidence supporting industrial injury to Sylves’ left shoulder, bilateral knees, [reflux disease] and sleep disorder.”

The WCAB said that the time in which to file a claim did not begin to run until a doctor told him the symptoms for which he had been receiving treatment were industrially related. Sylves’ 2014 application was timely, as medical confirmation was in 2013.

The WCAB determined that the county “failed to meet its burden of proof on the statute of limitations defenses.”

The appellate court also ruled on Sylves’ request for the county to pay his attorney fees.

“While we disagree with the county’s contentions, we cannot say the petition was baseless, as we have found no other reported decision from a court of appeal that discusses the application of section 5500.5(a) in the context of either the limitations period for filing an application for adjudication of claims or the WCAB’s lack of jurisdiction over a federally recognized Indian tribe,’’ the court said.

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