The Labor Code expressly permits an employee to bring a tort action against an employer who fraudulently conceals a work-related injury (¶ 2:2215 ff.). The employer’s actual knowledge of the existence of an employment-related injury is essential to a fraudulent concealment claim [2:2216]. For instance, a civil action may lie where an employer fraudulently conceals from its employees and their treating doctors that they were suffering from a disease caused by ingestion of asbestos at the workplace, thereby preventing them from receiving treatment and inducing them to continue to work under hazardous conditions. These circumstances may give rise to a civil action for aggravation of the disease, as distinct from the hazards of the employment that caused them to contract the disease. [Johns-Manville Products Corp. v. Super.Ct. (Rudkin), supra, 27 C3d at 477, 165 CR at 865;[ 2:2218].

Generally, there is a two-year statute of limitations to file suit for “assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” [5:105]. A cause of action “accrues” when under the substantive law, the wrongful act is committed and the liability arises. However, if plaintiff was under a “disability” when the cause of action accrued (i.e., plaintiff was a minor, mentally incompetent or imprisoned, below), the statute of limitations is tolled during all or a portion of the disability period. [CCP §§ 352(a), 352.1(a) [5:134]. Accrual is also delayed where defendant fraudulently concealed facts that would have led plaintiff to discover a potential cause of action. Here, the cause of action accrues when plaintiff actually discovers or is put on“inquiry notice” of the operative facts. A relief should have been granted where, because of his mental disorder, plaintiff did not employ counsel until sometime after the claim filing period had run and counsel was unable to obtain enough information from him to file the claim until several months later (Baber v. Napa State Hospital (1984) 154 CA3d 514, 516–517, 201 CR 432, 433) [5:67.5]. Working with an experienced personal injury attorney would be helpful in ensuring that one’s rights and interests are protected when it involves issues such as these, so get in touch with one as soon as possible.

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