City pays workers comp settlement

Morgan Hill

The city paid a workers’ compensation settlement to one of its public works employees this week, bringing the total amount paid in such claims this fiscal year to about $199,000.

Following a discussion in closed session at Wednesday’s meeting, the council voted to pay a settlement of $36,409.37 to senior maintenance worker Juan Pacheco, Sr. as a result of an injury or disability suffered on the job, according to City Attorney Danny Wan.

City staff declined to discuss details of Pacheco’s injury, citing the incident as a personnel matter. He noted that Pacheco’s injury was not caused by any “outrageous” behavior by Pacheco or any other staff people.

“(Workers comp settlements) are usually for people who are injured on the job and cannot return to work because the injury is permanent, to pay for lost job opportunities because of their inability to work anymore,” Wan said.

In fiscal year 2010-2011, the city paid out about $223,000 to employees who filed workers comp claims due to injuries suffered on the job – about $24,000 more than this year so far.

Most of the claims are filed by police officers who suffered injuries in pursuits and arrests, such as sprains, torn ligaments, cuts and bruises, Wan said. Recreation employees are also known to suffer injuries such as sprains or twisted knees, and the city receives “occasional” claims from public works staff – “although not as many as we would expect from such a physically demanding profession.” The city is also paying death benefits to the family of a late police officer.

The settlement was paid in accordance with the state workers’ compensation insurance law which regulates local payouts and claims.

The council voted to approve the settlement to Pacheco after the closed session.

Also discussed in Wednesday’s closed session, with no subsequent action by the council was a lawsuit filed against the city by State Farm General Insurance Company on behalf of the owners of a Morgan Hill home.

According to the claim filed by the insurance company in Santa Clara County Superior Court, a home owned by Joseph Frisby and Jicela Guerra suffered about $31,000 in water damage allegedly caused by city public works staff and equipment. The owners of the home on Castle Ridge Drive turned off the water to their home in June 2010 to make repairs to the plumbing system.

City staff, who had been notified of the need to keep the water off, turned the water back on via the outside meter box leading to the home several days later, in July 2010, according to the complaint. With the home repairs still underway and open lines remaining in the home, the resulting water flow into the home caused the flood damage.

State Farm paid the homeowners’ insurance claim, and in December 2010 filed a claim for damages with the city. The city denied that claim, according to the insurance company’s complaint.

The city has also denied the court complaint, and filed a response in Superior Court noting its denial. Wan declined to provide further comment on the case.

State Farm is seeking reimbursement for the $31,000 claim paid to the homeowners plus interest, as well as attorneys’ fees.

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