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Back in 2008, a human resources director for a Berkeley pharmacy that was closing down its operations decided to pitch in and help the company move some items around on its floor. Her well-intentioned action went awry when she suffered a severe back injury. Eleven years later, Boxer & Gerson attorney Jenny Jerez has won the woman a substantial measure of financial security with a $2.7 million award that will guarantee her a lifetime income and medical care.
The woman, 40 at the time of her injury, has endured four back surgeries, two each in 2009 and 2010, in an effort to mitigate her condition and allow her to go back to work. The decade ever since has been marked by too much pain and discomfort for employment to be a realistic option.
Jerez had her first meeting with the woman in February, 2012. The ensuing seven-year odyssey reflected both some surprise insurance company defensive tactics and the more or less normal, time-consuming process of medical and legal system evaluation.
“Cases most always take a long time before they’re resolved, but getting to a positive result is the important thing,” said Jerez. “With two children at home and a complete disability, she was very relieved to see justice done on her behalf.”
The case was also notable because it addressed an issue that has kept the workers’ comp community in turmoil in recent years. A variety of court decisions have left unanswered whether medical or vocational evidence and evaluations alone can inform a 100% disability claim. (Boxer & Gerson blogger Julius Young addressed the controversy in an October, 2018 post here.)
Judge Stanley Shields of the Oakland Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board weighed in on the side of vocational evidence being sufficient for a 100% verdict—a decision that should help further clarify what has heretofore been a murky area of the law.