Boxer & Gerson Partner Bert Arnold’s involvement with the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) spans many roles, from serving as past president of the statewide organization to his current role as CAAA’s legislative chair, to his frequent appearances as a panelist and lecturer at educational events for attorneys, physicians, and qualified medical examiners (QMEs). It was in this latter role that he appeared in April and will again in June at CAAA-sponsored events.
Arnold was one of two panelists in CAAA’s “ExamWorks” seminar for QMEs on April 29 in Sacramento. He presented the workers’ side of the medical evaluation process while the defense side was discussed by Richard Montarbo, a Red Bluff-based attorney with whom Arnold frequently appears in collegial educational settings and also as opposing counsel in workers’ compensation hearings. The two discussed “cumulative traumas,” a key factor in many workers’ compensation cases.
In certain cases, the defense may challenge a proposed financial award to an injured worker based on the assertion that previous injuries to the same body part or system are responsible for some percentage of the current injury. Determining the extent, if any, of a previous injury’s impact on a worker’s current condition is a difficult task, and it can be a key factor in arriving at a workers’ compensation award. The more knowledge and experience QMEs obtain on the matter, the more likely they are to determine an award that will be considered just by all parties.
At CAAA’s upcoming summer convention at the San Francisco Hyatt from June 22-25, Arnold will serve as a panelist on the subject of “Settlement Addendums,” which occur when employers wish to add certain language to case settlements after the state has generated the forms that settle a case. Settlement Addendums usually involve fine points and particulars that were not specifically included in the original settlement, but which remain to be elaborated and negotiated if necessary as the parties proceed to enact the practical aspects of the agreement.
Arnold is a certified workers’ compensation specialist who makes regular appearances on the “Bay Area Super Lawyers” lists. Now in his 31st year as a practicing attorney, he joined Boxer & Gerson in 1999 and became a partner with the firm in 2005.
Boxer & Gerson Workers’ Compensation Attorneys Dennis Popalardo, Deirdre Mochel and Justin Litvack teamed up two nights ago to make a presentation to the Stewards Council of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 29 at the union’s offices in Oakland. Local 29 represents more than 6,000 office, technical, professional and health care employees at more than 300 workplaces in the Bay Area.
Shop stewards are elected or appointed to represent each workplace in the union. They function as the point person to whom an employee would turn with urgent or even routine issues that come up in the workplace with other members, before or in lieu of the issue being addressed at the union local level. The trio of Boxer & Gerson attorneys thus focused their presentation on making sure the stewards received an accurate overview of workers’ compensation law and various do’s and don’ts when an employee gets injured at work.
Boxer & Gerson attorneys make regular presentations to union and other groups for whom it is imperative that they have a solid understanding of workers’ compensation law. The law also tends to be in flux as new legislation or court decisions interpreting existing law revise its various processes, procedures and applications. Presentations to union stewards are in addition to similar appearances in front of rank-and-file union members, executive boards, and union business agents.
Deirdre Mochel addresses OPEIU shop stewards with help from Justin Litvack (front center). Photos by Dennis Popalardo.
Boxer & Gerson Partner Dennis Popalardo appeared before the Alameda City Council on April 18 in support of a resolution to restore the city’s sworn fire prevention bureau. The professional firefighters who had previously staffed the bureau were from the International Association of Firefighters Local 689. Their positions had been eliminated in 2009 during a round of budget cuts, leaving the city with only one civilian employee fire inspector and an administrative technician. The predictable result was a mounting backlog of inspection needs and potential fire hazards in the city of nearly 80,000 residents.
Fire prevention efforts focus on rigorous and informed inspections of commercial and multi-family residential buildings in order to detect fire safety hazards that tend to grow only more serious over time, as buildings age and new owners or occupants fail to note and follow correct prevention protocols. The Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland last year, in which 36 people died because of an uninspected converted warehouse that had multiple fire hazards, stands as a prime example of what can occur in the absence of adequate fire prevention efforts.
Popalardo was joined by his Boxer & Gerson colleague Deirdre Mochel’s husband David Mitchell in encouraging the council to restore a more robust fire prevention service. Popalardo has long specialized in representing firefighters who have been injured on the job and require workers’ compensation. Mitchell is a member of the city’s Planning Board and a small business owner.
After discussion that included the fact that much of the cost of a newly expanded prevention bureau would be covered by the fees charged for fire inspections, the council voted to restore three positions that will be filled by sworn firefighters.
Boxer & Gerson Workers’ Compensation Attorney Jenny Jerez collaborated with the workers’ rights and safety organization WorkSafe on April 11 to present a Day Laborers & Injured Workers Clinic. The event was held at the offices of the Oakland Workers’ Collective in downtown Oakland, which matches day laborers to the needs of those looking for help in a wide variety of projects.
Jerez’s address was in Spanish, in order to better serve the large number of Bay Area workers who have immigrated from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Her presentation covered the rights of workers under workers’ compensation law, regardless of their immigrant or employment status, as well as legal distinctions between employees and day laborers in the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Jenny Jerez (right) with a WorkSafe staffmember
Many day laborers do not know that in the event of their suffering an on-the-job injury, they can file a claim for workers’ compensation, provided they meet specified criteria for length of their employment and income. (Jerez informed her audience of a bill pending in the California Legislature by Assembly Member Gonzalez Fletcher that would eliminate such exemptions.) She also emphasized how important it is for workers to report the injury utilizing the DWC1 form, and to be sure to tell the physician they consult that they were injured while working, no matter what the employer might otherwise suggest.
Jerez joined Boxer & Gerson in 2011 after previously running her own law practice and serving as an associate in another firm with a workers’ compensation emphasis. She is a fluent Spanish speaker who immigrated to the U.S. with her family from her native El Salvador as a young child.
Putting to good use his seven years of past service as a partner in a legal firm that defended large self-insured employers and insurance companies, Boxer & Gerson Workers’ Compensation Attorney Justin Litvack was one of four attorneys chosen to participate in a recent seminar entitled “Secrets From the Other Side.”
The morning-long discussion was organized by the California Applicant Attorneys Association, and was intended to shed light on common defense tactics that seek to deny or delay benefits to deserving injured workers. It was held at the Berkeley Marina Hotel, and attracted some 150 fellow attorneys and other industry professionals.
Litvack’s previous work on the defense side of the table eventually led him to realize that workers too often got the short end of decisions, their injuries minimized and awards not commensurate with the nature and extent of their disabilities. He decided to parlay that experience into becoming an effective advocate on their behalf, more deeply informed than he otherwise would have been in how to counter defense team strategies. He joined Boxer & Gerson in 2012.
Litvack is a Bay Area native who hails from a family of legal professionals. His father is a retired administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board.
After earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington, he graduated from law school at the University of Santa Clara, where he served as editor of the Law Review before graduating in 2005.
The Mexican Consulate of San Francisco is taking its information-packed seminars for immigrant populations on the road this Saturday with a major assist from Boxer & Gerson and its bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney Maria Sager. The consulate’s presentation at St. Peter Martyr Church in the East Bay town of Pittsburg will feature a number of expert speakers addressing topics that include immigration counseling, passport processing assistance, and information on voting, consular registration, and worker rights. Prominent among the latter will be Sager’s presentation on workers’ compensation law, which will take place from 10 a.m. until noon.
The day will kick off at 9 a.m. and conclude at noon in the church on 740 Black Diamond St. in Pittsburg. All the proceedings will be in Spanish, and there is no cost to attendees.
These “mobile consulates” serve the purpose of outreach to those in distant locales throughout Northern California who would find it difficult to find their way into San Francisco for consular assistance and information. They have proven to be a welcome service in outlying communities, where up to 200 participants have attended in the past. Sager herself crosses the Bay Bridge into San Francisco once a month to make a similar presentation at the consulate, which serves as a nerve center for the many complex issues that are swirling around immigration at this time in the United States.
In a case that took more than four years and contained no small number of legal complications, Boxer & Gerson, LLP Associate Attorney Jenny Jerez recently achieved the most important number of all as far as her client was concerned: $637,787. That’s the sum negotiated at mediation and awarded to a Daly City man who suffered a debilitating back injury in 2012 while on duty as a manager in a Sausalito bar.
The mediator was agreed to by both parties in a case that, had it gone to court, risked an even more costly outcome for the defendant, the American International Insurance Group (AIG). “The defendant pays all mediator costs, so when they consented to mediation, I knew they were serious abut settling,” said Jerez. “Then it became a matter of writing mediation briefs and laying out our case, which for my client involved two different injuries.”
The case was greatly complicated by the fact that Jerez’s client had suffered a previous back injury in 1987. Previous injuries to the same body part are always reviewed in great detail by defendants and their medical experts for their possible relationship to a subsequent injury. Awards are lessened to the degree, expressed in percentage terms, that the court decides the previous injury is responsible for the plaintiff’s disability.
“Though my client is now totally disabled, getting a 100% disability award with a prior injury in his background was impossible. He does have a chance, however, to get a 100% disability through another mechanism, the state-run Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund. My colleague here, Frank Russo, is pursuing that case on my client’s behalf.”
Jerez joined Boxer & Gerson in 2011 after previously running her own law practice and serving as an associate in another firms with a workers’ compensation emphasis. She is a fluent Spanish speaker who immigrated to the U.S. with her family from her native El Salvador as a young child.
An Antioch sheet metal worker who fell off a ladder while working on a roof and severely injured his back in 2007 finally saw justice rendered in his case last month in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in Oakland. His $1.4 million award came in a settlement negotiated by Bert Arnold, a Boxer & Gerson, LLP Partner and Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist. Arnold took the case on in August, 2009 after the man had come up empty in previous attempts to be compensated for his workplace injury. He was 49 at the time, and the decade that had passed between his injury and the award stood as final vindication for the many difficulties he had endured.
“He was terribly disabled, so he couldn’t work at his old job anymore, and he didn’t have much else by way of employable skills,” said Arnold. “The chances of anyone hiring him again were slim, and the Qualified Medical Evaluator employed by the state to review his injury hadn’t done him justice. We had to call doctors, vocational experts and others to report about how severe his situation was. It was a complex case that went longer than most, but we finally got him the compensation he deserved.”
Arnold’s legal career began in 1986 after his graduation from San Francisco School of Law. He joined Boxer & Gerson in 1999 and became a partner in 2005.
His wider activity in the legal field includes serving as president of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) in 2015. The organization works to reform the state’s workers’ compensation system and thereby help injured workers obtain just compensation and return to work whenever possible. More recently, he took on the role of the organization’s legislative chair, which promotes the interests of injured workers among Sacramento lawmakers.
Regularly named as a Northern California “Super Lawyer” in surveys by San Francisco magazine, Arnold also makes regular presentations at conferences and seminars for attorneys, doctors and other groups, for whom he details the intricacies of workers’ compensation law and the ever-changing legislation and case law that shapes its application.
Boxer & Gerson, LLP Partner and Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist Maria Sager will be returning to her law school alma mater on March 22 when she joins two other legal professionals on a panel presentation discussing workers’ compensation law for Golden Gate University School of Law students. The two-and-a-half-hour morning discussion will also include San Francisco-based Defense Attorney Elizabeth Furlow and Judge Sharon Velzy from the Van Nuys District Office of the California State Department of Industrial Relations.
The panelists’ pro bono appearance is part of a long-running program of the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee and its Community Outreach Subcommittee. One of the committee’s goals is to engage in educational activities that enhance the knowledge of workers’ comp law among all its stakeholders: employers, businesses, workers, the legal profession and the wider public. Sager served as past chair of the subcommittee, currently serves as a member, and has been instrumental in helping to stage and participate in these panel discussion events in various venues around the state.
The panelists will provide interested law students from Golden Gate and neighboring law schools with a wide-ranging overview of workers’ compensation law. Topics will include the law’s historical roots, its application, insurance requirements, types of injuries it covers, and issues such as distinguishing independent contractors from employees, and how workers’ comp law applies or does not to both groups.
Judge Sharon Velzy began her legal career as a criminal defense attorney for the indigent before becoming a workers’ compensation attorney for the State of California. She has been a sitting judge at the Van Nuys District Office since 2012, engages in regular guest lecturing and currently is on the board for the Workers’ Compensation Section of the State Bar Executive Committee. She is also the past recipient of the Wiley M. Manuel Award honoring her pro bono work on behalf of the poor.
Elizabeth Furlow is a workers’ compensation defense attorney in the San Francisco office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP. She is a graduate of San Francisco School of Law and San Francisco State University.
Maria Sager graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 1998 and joined Boxer & Gerson in 2003. She was named a partner in 2011. Sager is among the bilingual attorneys and other staff members who serve Spanish-speaking clientele for the firm.
In addition to her statewide presentations, Sager also participates in monthly radio interviews in Spanish on San Francisco radio station KIQI, where she discusses workers’ compensation law, immigrant rights, and related topics while also responding to live phone calls in the latter part of the show.
Boxer & Gerson, LLP is one of multiple financial sponsors of a “Know Your Rights” workshop for immigrants and refugees taking place Saturday, March 11 at the Fruitvale San Antonio Senior Center in Oakland. The two-hour workshops will cover the same material in morning (10 a.m. to noon) and afternoon (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.) sessions, so that attendees can better fit the event into their schedules.
The workshop was conceived as a concrete and supportive response by local human service agencies to the fear and uncertainty engendered by recent crackdowns on undocumented immigrant populations and those whom officials may suspect to be so. It will offer information and instruction, do’s and don’ts, about what to do in the event of a raid or deportation threat by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers on one’s self, family member or friend.
The event reflects longstanding, explicit commitments by Alameda and many other counties in California to do everything possible to ensure the human and legal rights of U.S. residents, regardless of their immigration status. It is being supported by a number of Bay Area city and county governments, politicians, religious organizations, labor groups and others. Boxer & Gerson, the largest workers’ compensation attorney firm representing injured employees in Northern California, was invited to support the event by the Alameda Labor Council, longtime associates in the struggle for workers’ rights.