Dec
28
2009
0

Has Ogilvie been stayed???

Just a red herring

Just a red herring

In a word, noOgilvie has not been stayed by the WCAB, Court of Appeals, or any other court at this time. [1]

A defense attorney is circulating a letter suggesting that he got the Board to agree on Reconsideration to stay the application of Ogilvie on a case until the Supreme Court decides on the issue.

First, let me preface by saying the Board might theoretically decide to not apply the DFEC rebuttal analysis under Ogilvie for any number of reasons:

  • Perhaps the defense vocational expert witness was particularly persuasive
  • Perhaps the injured worker was a terrible witness
  • Perhaps the Board noted a particularly disproportionate effect of Ogilvie
  • Perhaps there were a lot of “motivational” issues for the injured worker
  • Perhaps the injury was less than 3 years old

Secondly, even if the Board found a way to decline to apply the DFEC rebuttal analysis under Ogilvie in one circumstance, this does not stay or overrule Ogilvie.  We would need to see something from either the Court of Appeals or another[2] en banc Ogilvie decision from the WCAB.

Thirdly, while I have not seen the documentation to prove it, I have learned the Board declined to apply the DFEC rebuttal analysis under Ogilvie due to some technical issue not having much to do with the actual Ogilvie case.

So, to recap – Ogilvie has not been stayed.  If someone claims otherwise, ignore them until they produce the case.  And when you see it… send me a copy!

  1. Photo courtesy of jypsygen []
  2. Third!!! []
Jun
27
2009
1

Guest Article from Vocational Expert Emily Tincher

Always room for guest articles at PDRater!

Always room for guest articles at PDRater!

Emily Tincher has recently provided a vocational expert’s perspective on the Ogilvie and Almaraz/Guzman decisions.

Have you got an article on workers’ compensation you’d like to see published?  Drop me a line and let me know.[1]

Thanks Emily!

P.S. For those of who keeping score at home, this is my 200th post!!!  That’s 200 posts in 357 days or roughly a post every 1.7 days.

  1. Photo courtesy of Stephen Cummings []
Jun
27
2009
0

Guest Article: Vocational Expert Response to Ogilvie/Almaraz/Guzman

The workers compensation law is founded on the concept of exclusive remedy. In exchange the employer is protected from a civil case. The agreement results in liberal construction. The Trier of Fact has always had the latitude to interpret PD when there are gray areas, and can do so in favor of the worker. The traditional concept is that this is a David and Goliath situation and the system should err in favor of the injured workers.

The new En Banc decisions are a recapitulation of this basic tenet of all workers compensation law. We first saw this in Le Bouef, followed by any number of cases where a PD rating is increased by the WCAB. In cases like Espinoza in the late 80’s, literacy was factored out of the PD rating and considered non industrial. This came up again recently in Hertz, but its really old news.

The new En Banc decision has given the applicant’s attorney more encouragement to challenge the rating. There has always been this ability and the challenge is generally successful, if in fact, the worker is far more disabled than rated. Or far less. I recall the excitement when a case law came out in the late 90’s that said the PTP did not always prevail. The judge simply found the D/QME better science, better clinical evidence and more compelling than a poorly conceived PTP report.

The use of the vocational expert in cases where there is a possible injustice has always been an option for the applicant attorney. The defense will need rebuttal evaluations to ensure that these assertions are fairly reviewed by the Trier of Fact. I am pleased to see the issue raised and the heightened interest in the opinions of vocational experts. There are many pitfalls in the practices and methodologies used. Does interest and motivation factor into ability to work? Is possible to identify the “highest and best” earnings and the “lowest and worst?” Certainly a decent vocational expert can take any side of the argument and present a case of very low, or no earnings, or present a case of higher earnings or no loss of earnings. These are hypothetical evaluations, and the factors must be considered carefully.

Recently I evaluated a young man, age 27, who had an injured hand and could no longer deliver furniture. He was earning $16.00 per hour. The applicant’s evaluator determined he had no transferable skills and was able to earn only minimum wage. One year later, the applicant had taken a four week course in phlebotomy and was earning $22.00 per hour, an increase in earning capacity. The software used by vocational experts would never have predicted this outcome. I did however; predict it, as it turned out that the worker had 100 undergraduate units, but no degree. I asserted that with that level of aptitude for learning, he would eventually find his highest and best earning capacity. The evaluation which is limited to D.O.T codes will be open to scrutiny and can be overturned. Only by consideration of all rehabilitation factors is it possible to accurately predict earning capacity.


To contact Emily Tincher, call 415 389 8953 or email her at Emily.tincher@cascadedisability.com.

Emily Tincher is a vocational expert, in practice over 25 years throughout California, as a specialist in workers compensation. She has a Masters in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from the CRC certified program at University of Southern California, and was admitted to the American Board of Vocational Experts as a Fellow.
Jun
12
2009
0

Why did the WCAB in Weiner kill vocational rehabilitation?

WCAB: Throwing babies out with the bathwater since 1965

The WCAB: Throwing babies out with the bathwater since 1965

For context, its best to see the prior post about the WCAB’s Weiner v. Ralph’s (en banc) decision.  There’s even a link to the Weiner v. Ralphs (en banc) decision for download – just so you can play along at home.

The question in the title of the post is really a question about the WCAB’s rationale – not their end legal justification behind Weiner.  I believe the Weiner case hints that the WCAB is going to go the other way and uphold their rulings in Almaraz/Guzman and Ogilvie.

However, I think the WCAB’s rationale for ending vocational rehabilitation was because of the potential for enormous retroactive vocational rehabilitation maintenance allowance awards at the temporary total disability rate outside the cap (VRTD).[1][2]

  1. Photo courtesy of Stephane Raymond []
  2. You see, I’m suggesting that the bathwater is VRTD and the baby itself is vocational rehabilitation.  Kinda kills the metaphor, eh? []
Jun
11
2009
2

Weiner v Ralphs (en banc): Vocational Rehabilitation Ends

Weiner v. Ralphs spells the end of rehab

Weiner v. Ralphs spells the end of rehab

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board recently solicited amicus briefs regarding the Weiner v. Ralphs case.  After review of the amicus briefs on the topic of the repeal of Labor Code Section 139.5 and vocational rehabilitation, the WCAB has just issued their en banc opinion.[1]

Download a copy of Weiner v. Ralphs (en banc) right here:

Obviously, you’ll need to read and interpret Weiner v. Ralph’s for yourself.  Here’s the Board’s own summary:

  1. The repeal of section 139.5 terminated any rights to vocational rehabilitation benefits or services pursuant to orders or awards that were not final before January 1, 2009
  2. A saving clause was not adopted to protect vocational rehabilitation rights in cases still pending on or after January 1, 2009
  3. The vocational rehabilitation statutes that were repealed in 2003 do not continue to function as “ghost statutes” on or after January 1, 2009
  4. Effective January 1, 2009, the WCAB lost jurisdiction over non-vested and inchoate vocational rehabilitation claims, but the WCAB continues to have jurisdiction under sections 5502(b)(3) and 5803 to enforce or terminate vested rights; and
  5. Subject matter jurisdiction over non-vested and inchoate vocational rehabilitation claims cannot be conferred by waiver, estoppel, stipulation, or consent.

What does Weiner v. Ralph’s mean to you?

  1. Vocational rehabilitation is gone unless there is a “vested” right by way order that became final prior to 1/1/2009.
  2. If you already have a final order for vocational rehabilitation, the WCAB can still hear a dispute.
  1. Photo courtesy of larryfishkorn []

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