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You Can Put Lipstick on a Lien, and it’s Still a Lien

May 13th, 2013

We’ve all been there – at a restaurant, at a banana-stand, at a public restroom, and the line was ridiculously long.  Maybe it was hot.  Maybe it was cold.  Maybe you were in a hurry.  But no matter the conditions, you got in line just like everyone else and waited your turn.

Then you saw King Jerk or Princess Better-Than-Everyone-Else.  He decided he wasn’t going to wait in line and just skip ahead.  She decided her hurry was more important than your hurry, so she could skip over everyone else.

Workers’ compensation is just like the real world, and we have lines and rules and procedures that everyone should be following, but some people think that they’re special.  In the recent en banc decision of Luis Martinez v. Ana Terrazas, that “special” someone was a lien claimant by the name of New Age Imaging, Inc.

New Age decided that it didn’t need to file its lien activation fee, as required by the fairly new Labor Code section 4903.06, and that it would instead file a petition for costs under Labor Code section 5811 (“In all proceedings under this division before the appeals board, costs as between the parties may be allowed by the appeals board.”)

In other words, there’s no lien, but just a petition for costs!  Do you buy it, dear readers?  Well, the commissioners of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board happened to be having lunch at the restaurant where New Age was trying to cut in line, and told them to get in back like everyone else!

The WCAB held that “a claim for medical-legal expenses may not be filed as a petition for costs under section 5811.”  However, those lien claimants who bought into this scheme and dismissed their liens so as to file a petition for costs will still be allowed to re-file their lien so long as they pay the activation fee.

There have been a string of en banc or “significant panel” decisions recently which address the issue of 4903.06 lien activation fees.  The decisions are consistent and essentially give form to the boiling resentment that the WCAB has been developing over the years as the system has been strangled by liens.

Now it’s time to pay the piper – lien claimants will have to pay the fee or get swept out of the system without any discussion.  And no wiggling or wrangling or mislabeling or anything else will keep 4903.06 from striking the liens down.

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