The trial court’s failure to include a specific intent to defraud requirement rendered the jury instructions for worker’s compensation fraud erroneous.
Blick was convicted of three insurance fraud offenses for collecting benefits for a knee injury when surveillance tapes showed that she was able to work, including a conviction for a violation of Penal Code section 550, subdivision (b)(3): knowingly failing to disclose the occurence of an event which affects the person’s entitlement to benefits. The court instructed the jury that “every person who, with the specific intent to do so, conceals or fails to disclose…” Blick argued on appeal that the trial court’s instruction construed section 550, subdivision (b)(3) as a strict liability offense which did not require a specific intent to defraud, and therefore violated her right to due process. She argued that it deprived her of a “good faith belief” defense that she intentionally concealed information with the innocent belief that the information was irrelevant to her worker’s comp status. The appellate court disagreed that the instruction construed section 550, subdivision (b)(3) as a strict liability offense. However, section 550, subdivision (b)(3) requires a specific intent to defraud. The trial court’s instruction here added specific intent language to the proscribed act, that of concealing an event, instead of adding the specific intent to defraud. Therefore, the instruction was erroneous. Since there was a reasonable probability that the instructional error affected the jury verdict, reversal was required.