The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board will see the return of a familiar face with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reappointment of Marguerite Sweeney to the board (see photo). A former applicant attorney, Sweeney has served as a WCAB Commissioner since 2012, and her reappointment is being welcomed by defense and applicant attorney’s alike.
Sweeney’s extensive experience in the workers’ comp system brought a wealth of institutional knowledge to the board. Attorneys note that losing that knowledge at this time would be troublesome considering the lack of experience of some of the current WCAB commissioners.
“All things considered, I think she’s a positive influence on the board,” says defense attorney Jake Jacobsmeyer. “Obviously as a defense attorney you would like her to occasionally be a little bit more moderate, but I think she has shown more balance than I think some people thought she was going to when she first got the appointment.”
Originally an appointee of former Gov. Jerry Brown, Sweeney at the time was best known for successfully arguing the Sandhagen case before the California Supreme Court. That decision established that employers can only challenge medical treatment requests through the state’s utilization review process.
More recently, Sweeney penned opinions for the board that clarify the rules for apportionment when there are multiple injuries to various body parts. In another case, Sweeney wrote a decision that supported the cut off of permanent disability benefits before they were fully paid following the worker’s death from nonindustrial factors.
The decisions were a mixed bag for employers and injured workers. The apportionment decision is likely to make it easier for injured workers with multiple injuries to qualify for life pensions (see WCAB Clarifies…). The second, however, sided with the self-insured employer and rejected the plaintiff’s claims that cutting off the benefits before they were fully paid amounted to “unjust enrichment.” Later a court of appeal agreed (see WCAB, Court…).
Sweeney’s appointment will have to pass muster with the California Senate again, but that is expected to be a mere formality. WCAB commissioners earn just over $159,000 annually. Sweeney is a Democrat.