CompPartners Wins Workers’ Comp Case Before California Supreme Court

In a closely-watched case with major implications for the scope of the exclusive remedy of California workers’ compensation law, Munger, Tolles & Olson won an appeal before the California Supreme Court on behalf of CompPartners, a workers’ compensation services provider.

The Supreme Court ruled Aug. 23, 2018 that “the workers’ compensation law provides the exclusive remedy for the employee’s injuries and thus preempts the employee’s tort claims,” overturning a lower state appellate court ruling that a plaintiff could pursue tort claims, including a failure-to-warn claim, against a workers’ compensation service provider and associated doctor.

The case stemmed from a plaintiff who suffered an injury at work and was prescribed anxiety medication. After a CompPartners doctor discontinued the drug, the plaintiff alleged he suffered seizures and sought tort relief in civil court.

Appearing before the California Supreme Court on May 29, 2018, Munger, Tolles & Olson’s Fred A. Rowley, Jr. argued that the state workers’ compensation system provides the exclusive remedy for such claims against workers’ compensation utilization review providers. Mr. Rowley argued that allowing an employee to sue a provider in tort would undermine the legislature’s carefully-constructed scheme that guarantees employees compensation for workplace-related injuries through the workers’ compensation system while foreclosing tort claims for those same injuries.

Along with Mr. Rowley, the attorney team included Jeffrey Y. Wu and Joshua S. Meltzer.