Self Inflicted Injury at Work Cases In California

In deciding whether compensation for an injury is barred as intentionally self-inflicted, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, as well as the reviewing court, is enjoined by section 3202 to construe the workers' compensation provisions of the Labor Code liberally " 'with the purpose of extending their benefits for the protection of persons injured in the course of their employment.' " (Mathews v. Workmen's Comp. Appeals Bd. (1972) 6 Cal. 3d 719, 726 [100 Cal. Rptr. 301, 493 P.2d 1165].) Consequently, in determining what type of injurious conduct the Legislature meant to exclude from the compensation scheme, the provisions of subdivision (a)(5) of section 3600 must be narrowly and strictly construed. (6 Cal. 3d at p. 726.) In analyzing a different statute, our Supreme Court discussed the compensation exclusions set forth in subdivision (a)(5) of section 3600. ( Johns-Manville Products Corp. v. Superior Court (1980) 27 Cal. 3d 465, 473 [165 Cal. Rptr. 858, 612 P.2d 948, 9 A.L.R.4th 758].) The court described the type of injury barred by subdivision (a)(5) as follows: "The only intentional misconduct of an employee which excludes his right to compensation is the deliberate infliction of injury upon himself, his participation in an altercation in which he is the aggressor, or where his injuries are caused by intoxication. . . . These provisions were obviously designed, at least in part, to prevent an employee from injuring himself in order to collect compensation, to deter physical aggression by employees, and to prevent injuries due to intoxication. The fact that the Legislature chose to except these particular types of intentional acts from compensation coverage does not imply that all types of employee misconduct which may be described as intentional will preclude recovery of compensation." (27 Cal. 3d at pp. 472-473.) Thus, subdivision (a)(5) of section 3600 clearly "rules out the individual who may try to obtain compensation benefits through self-help." (1 Herlick, Cal. Workers' Compensation Law (5th ed. 1998) 10.4, p. 10-10.) When employees cause their own injury, they may still recover compensation benefits under the statutory scheme. Benefits accrue regardless of the fault of any person or in the absence of fault. Employees will be denied benefits only if the self-infliction is intentional. the causal connection between employment and the injury is sufficient if the employment is a contributing cause of the injury; it need not be the sole cause. ( Madin v. Industrial Acc. Com. (1956) 46 Cal. 2d 90, 92 [292 P.2d 892].) "Where the injury occurs on the employer's premises, while the employee is in the course of employment, the injury arises out of the employment unless the connection is so remote from the employment that it is not an incident of it." (Id. at pp. 94-95.)