Home > Uncategorized > Fifteen Years Late and $14k Short – An Applicant Returns to Claim his “Rights”

Fifteen Years Late and $14k Short – An Applicant Returns to Claim his “Rights”

September 30th, 2013

How long should an applicant be allowed to grumble about unpaid sums prior to being required to take action?  After all, promises of riches are great for propping up dreams, but rights are nothing comfortable to sit on.

I bring to you, the curious case of Alonzo Watkins v. Long Beach Unified School District.  Mr. Watkins was employed as a teacher and sustained an industrial injury in May of 1991 (no, folks, that’s not a typo).  A Findings and Award issued in June of 1996 and an Order Approving Compromise and Release was issued in December of the same year (yeah, folks, that’s not a typo).

Fifteen years later, applicant was zealously up in arms about some unpaid $14,000 based on these two events, and then proceeded with the claim that the defendant had to prove that payment was made.  Somewhere along the life of the case, a WCJ issued an order requiring defendants to provide bank statements, cancelled checks, an audit of its available funds, or a statement as to why these documents were unavailable (realistically, the statement could have been as simple as records are destroyed after X number of years).

Defendant didn’t comply with the order, and instead the matter proceeded to trial before a difference WCJ, where defendant produced a benefits printout and copies of two checks made out to applicant.

Now, it appears there was a filing error, and the trial judge was not able to review the other WCJ’s order to produce bank records, so upon reconsideration, the WCJ recommended that reconsideration be granted.  On the other hand, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, in denying applicant’s petition for reconsideration, reasoned that the issue was not raised at trial, and so could not be raised on appeal.

In any case, the WCAB held that it was applicant’s burden to prove by substantial evidence that he did not receive the payment, and that he failed to meet that burden, so the extra $14,000 he was hoping for were not to be squeezed out of the school district (with all its extra money).

But, recall, dear readers, a different case, that of Barrett Business Services, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, where the Court of Appeal held that the defendant was liable for the checks sent to applicant’s address of record that were cashed at a cash-checking service by someone (allegedly) other than applicant.

The facts are different, of course, and the fifteen years of patiently waiting for checks to come in did not meet the reasonable test for applicant’s conduct.

The WCAB got this one right, and the WCJs should have given consideration to the costs to the defendant of performing a 15-year search of all bank records based on the unreasonable claims of an applicant fifteen years late and $14k short.

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