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Workers' Compensation Daily News for May 05, 2015

Copy Service Fee Regulations Effective July 1
Tue, 5 May 2015 08:34:00 - Pacific Time
The Office of Administrative Law (OAL) has approved the Division of Workers’ Compensation’s (DWC) final version of the Copy Service Fee Schedule. The effective date of the regulations is July 1, 2015.

"The new copy service fee schedule, which was mandated by SB 863, is a flat $180 fee for a set of records from a single custodian. By reducing the items and services that can be separately billed, we expect fewer disputes and prompter payments. If there are disagreements about a copy service bill, the disputes can now be handled through Independent Bill Review instead of the more time consuming and costly lien process," said DWC Administrative Director Destie Overpeck.

The Copy Service Fee Schedule regulations include the following:

1) Instead of a per-page fee and itemized fees for subpoena preparation, mileage, and other related fees, a flat fee of $180 covers records of 500 pages and under and includes mileage, postage, delivery, phone calls, page numbering, witness fees, release of information fees, and subpoena preparation.
2) Separate charges are allocated for cancellations, certificates of no record, for records obtained from EDD and WCIRB, and for additional sets for records.
3) For copies above 500 pages, an additional 10 cents a page is allowed.
4) Bills for copy services must include provider tax ID numbers, professional photocopier numbers, and claim numbers and may include newly-created billing codes.
5) DWC fees for transcripts will no longer be estimated. It will cost $100 to order a transcript of 33 pages and under; transcripts over 33 pages will cost an additional $3 a page. DWC fees for Public Records Act requests requiring staff research will be charged at $85 an hour instead of $40.
6) DWC can dispose of paper adjudication documents after 20 years.

Although the Fee Regulations become effective on July 1, claim administrators should be aware that photocopiers are already regulated by statute in California. A "professional photocopier" is defined by section 22450 of the Business and Professions Code. This code requires that a professional photocopier shall be registered by the county clerk of the county in which he or she resides or has his or her principal place of business, and in which he or she maintains a branch office. A certificate of registration shall be accompanied by a bond of five thousand dollars ($5,000) which is executed by a corporate surety qualified to do business in this state and conditioned upon compliance with the provisions of this chapter and all laws governing the transmittal of confidential documentary information. The county clerk shall maintain a register of professional photocopiers, assign a number to each professional photocopier, and issue an identification card to each one. Additional cards for employees of professional photocopiers shall be issued. A professional photocopier shall be responsible at all times for maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of information obtained under the applicable codes in the transmittal or distribution of records to the authorized persons or entities. At least one person involved in the management of a professional photocopier shall be required to hold a current commission from the Secretary of State as a notary public in California.

All records transmitted or distributed by a professional photocopier shall be accompanied by a certificate containing the name, address, and registration number and county of registration of the professional photocopier as well as other mandated information specified in Business and Professions code 22462. A failure to comply with the professional photocopier requirements shall be punishable as a misdemeanor. It would be advisable for claim administrators to verify that all photocopied records comply with these provisions.

The text of the copy service fee regulations can be found on the DWC website.. Read More...

Court Reviews Evidence Required in Restitution Hearing
Tue, 5 May 2015 08:33:53 - Pacific Time
While confined in state prison, Gray Bond Gracy punched nurse Andrew Jones in the face multiple times.juries prevented him from returning to work. Jones's injuries included a left eye contusion, blurry vision, nausea, lumbar strain, post-traumatic anxiety, an adjustment disorder, and situational stress. The Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board (Gov. Code, § 13950 et seq.) awarded Jones $28,787.90 for lost overtime pay, which was not covered by workers compensation insurance.

Gracy pleaded no contest to an assault on Andrew Jones by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(4).) He entered his plea pursuant to an agreement which provided he would receive a low-term, two-year sentence and be required to pay restitution to the Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board. Thus, the court ordered him to pay restitution of $28,787.90 for lost overtime wages. Gracy appealed the restitution order and the Court of Appeal affirmed in the unpublished case of People v Gracy.

Gracy contended on appeal that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering him to pay the victim $28,787.90 as restitution. His contention was erroneously based on the purported duty of the prosecution to authenticate by live testimony the underpinnings of the claim.

During the restitution proceeding, the prosecutor provided the court with a copy of an employment verification form which showed that (1) Jones had worked for his employer from September 23, 1996, through April 18, 2013; and (2) before April 18, Jones had worked an average of 31.19 overtime hours per month, at a rate of $61.17 per hour (approximately $1,907 of overtime wages per month). The employer did not complete the blank space in the verification form section which reads as follows: "Employee would have worked an avg. of __ weekly overtime hours if the incident had not occurred." The Board paid Jones $28,787.90 of overtime wages, for a period of approximately 15 months based upon his average monthly overtime wages prior to the incident. Gracy offered no evidence.

While the prosecution does bear the burden of proof to establish the loss and its relationship to the crime, this burden is met by submission of Board's findings and orders. "If, as a result of the defendant's conduct, the Restitution Fund has provided assistance to or on behalf of victim," pursuant to section 13950 of the Government Code, "the amount of assistance provided shall be presumed to be a direct result of the defendant's criminal conduct and shall be included in the amount of the restitution ordered."

The standard of proof at a restitution hearing is by a preponderance of the evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. When there is a factual and rational basis for the amount of restitution ordered by the trial court, no abuse of discretion will be found by the reviewing court.

Here the prosecution made a prima facie showing of Jones's loss by presenting documentary evidence that before the assault he worked an average of 31.19 hours in overtime each month, payable at the hourly rate of $61.17. It was reasonable to assume that Jones would have continued to work an average of 31.19 overtime hours per month had he not suffered injuries as a result of appellant's assault, payable at the same rate he received before the assault. A prima facie case having been made, appellant was free to produce contrary evidence. He did not do so. The court did not abuse its discretion in ordering appellant to pay the Board the sum it paid to Jones. Read More...

Uber Sued by Injured Driver for Comp Benefits
Mon, 4 May 2015 11:00:20 - Pacific Time
A San Francisco janitor who had his face slashed by a passenger while working a nightshift as an UberX driver has filed a lawsuit seeking workers compensation insurance coverage from Uber Technologies, the ride hailing platform that classifies its drivers as independent contractors. The lawsuit, which was filed by Abdo Ghazi in San Francisco Superior Court on April 28, is seeking class action status as well as an injunction, damages and penalties against Uber.

According to the report in Biz Journals, it is the latest in a line of similar lawsuits with potentially far reaching implications for the on-demand economy that have been filed against Uber and other new tech platforms insisting that the workers providing the actual services they advertise be treated as employees. "Uber's misclassification of drivers as independent contractors gave it an unfair advantage over competing transportation companies, harmed Uber drivers, and violated state law," the suit claims. Even short of getting employment status, Ghazi's suit demands that he be given workers compensation benefits, something that is allowed for and in some cases mandated even when workers are not considered employees, as is the case for taxi drivers in California.

San Francisco taxi officials say workers’ compensation coverage costs nearly $5,000 per cab a year, and they have long complained that it is unfair that taxi companies must provide drivers with workers compensation coverage while there is no similar requirement for drivers for Uber and similar on-demand platforms like Lyft and Sidecar, all of which are regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission.

Ghazi, 56, suffered a broken nose and four puncture wounds to his nose and mouth when he was attacked without provocation in the Richmond District by a male passenger shortly after midnight on Nov. 23, according to his complaint. David Lin, 26, fled after attacking Ghazi and was later taken into custody after attempting to break into someone's house, a police spokesman said. He has been charged with one count of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, one count of battery with serious bodily injury, and one count of false imprisonment and has entered a plea of not guilty. Ghazi's attacker was allegedly one of three people, including two men and woman, who originally got into Ghazi's car at about midnight, said Conor Granahan, one of Ghazi's attorneys. Ghazi was driving his Toyota Sienna and getting ride referrals through Uber's UberX service, which enables people using a smartphone application to drive for hire using their own vehicles.

After dropping off one man and the woman, Ghazi was taking his remaining passenger toward Clement Street and 18th Avenue when the man suddenly leaped into the front seat and started punching Ghazi without warning, repeatedly striking Ghazi's face while pulling on his seatbelt so he could not escape, Granahan said. Ghazi's lip and chin were punctured by something sharp during the attack and he was taken to a local hospital where he was stitched up, and he still has "swelling and other issues with his mouth" as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Granahan. He will need subsequent medical care, his suit states.

The result was that Ghazi, a resident of the Tenderloin, was off work for nearly two months from both Uber and also from his day job as a custodian at a downtown building, though he has since returned to both positions, Granahan said. Ghazi previously worked as a taxi driver at night, but when his earnings plummeted as a result of Uber's impact on the market, he switched in June 2014 to the Uber platform, his complaint states.

Alec Segarich, another of Ghazi's lawyers, who specializes in employment law, said he was aware of other lawsuits like Ghazi's that are seeking employee status and have been filed against other tech-enabled companies which claim they are simply a communication platform to connect customers with independent contractors providing services ranging from house cleaning to grocery delivery. Other San Francisco firms named as defendants in such cases include Caviar (owned by payments provider Square), Homejoy, Instacart, Lyft and Postmates."Our legal theory is that not providing workers compensation and misclassifying workers is an unfair business practice," Segarich said.

"A lot of companies are trying to get out of pretty basic employment rights that have been around for a century. We think that just because you have an app it doesn't change the employer-employee relationship, and that's a lot of what this lawsuit is about." Read More...

50% of Patients Give Uninformed Consent
Mon, 4 May 2015 11:00:14 - Pacific Time
Over half of people receiving medical scans such as X-rays do not know if they are exposed to radiation and many have unanswered questions even as they are waiting to undergo the test. Previous studies have shown that when patients have more information and can share in the decision-making process, they have less anxiety and more satisfaction with their treatment, the study authors write in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Dr. Andrew Rosenkrantz, lead author, told Reuters Health that while the United States performs a high volume of medical scans, many patients are not informed about what the tests entail. "We did this study seeking to gain insights into just how well patients understood their own tests that they were about to undergo," Rosenkrantz, an associate professor of Radiology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said in an email.

Reuters reports that the study team recruited 176 patients who were waiting to have medical imaging scans, including CT and nuclear medicine scans, which involve radiation, and MRI and ultrasounds, which do not. The participants completed surveys asking about their knowledge regarding their procedures, and what the tests were for. They also reported on whether their doctor had explained the exam, how well it was explained and whether they still had unanswered questions. The researchers found that only about 46 percent of people correctly identified whether the test they were about to undergo employed radiation. Among people who would be drinking a radioactive contrast agent for their test, just over half knew it, while among those who would be getting the contrast agent by injection, just over 70 percent knew it.

Patients had the greatest understanding of CT scans, a powerful type of X-ray that shows cross-sections of the body. Patients reported the least understanding of nuclear medicine, in which the radioactive liquid contrast agents are used to enhance the image. About 78 percent of participants said their doctor explained the exam in advance and 72 percent were satisfied with the explanation. However, nearly one in five still had unanswered questions while awaiting the test.

For each kind of exam, those who had not had the test before had less understanding of it. One in five patients had used the Internet to learn about the exam, while the same proportion consulted friends and family. In addition, over half of patients said they would be interested in discussing the exam with a radiologist in advance.

Although the benefits of medical testing generally outweigh the risks, being exposed to radiation can increase a person’s risk of getting cancer later in life, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Michael Zwank, a physician at Regions Hospital in Saint Paul, Minnesota, who studies physician-patient communication, said patients should be more aware of the risks of these exams. "It is concerning that there is a big group of patients that seem to not have the awareness of radiation exposure that they are or are not experiencing with this imaging," Zwank, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

Rosenkrantz noted that the results may be skewed, since people who knew the answers to the survey questions may have been more likely to complete the survey. For this reason, the study results may show a higher level of awareness than is actually true for most people, he pointed out.

"Patients should also feel comfortable asking about logistics of the exam, ranging from what exam is being performed, which body part is being evaluated, the reason for the exam," Rosenkrantz said. Zwank added that he encourages all patients to ask their doctors: "1. Is the test necessary? 2. What are the risks? 3. Are there alternatives?" Read More...

Reserving a Lifetime Award is Getting More Complicated
Fri, 1 May 2015 08:52:51 - Pacific Time
Traditionally, claim administrators project the cost of a lifetime award using statistical actuarial tables that predict life expectancy based upon historical data. The settlement value of a workers compensation claim also considers the expected lifetime cost of the claim. But now, researchers say it may be possible to slow and even reverse aging by keeping DNA more stably packed together in our cells. Perhaps evaluating the cost of settlement value of a claim is getting far more complicated than just using an actuarial table.

In a breakthrough discovery, scientists report that they have found the key to keeping cells young. In a study published Thursday in Science, and reported by Time Magazine, an international team, led by Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at the Salk Institute, studied the gene responsible for an accelerated aging disease known as Werner syndrome, or adult progeria, in which patients show signs of osteoporosis, grey hair and heart disease in very early adulthood.

These patients are deficient in a gene responsible for copying DNA, repairing any mistakes in that replication process, and for keeping track of telomeres, the fragments of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that are like a genetic clock dictating the cell’s life span. Belmonte - together with scientists at the University Catolica San Antonio Murcia and the Institute of Biophysics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences - wanted to understand how the mutated gene triggered aging in cells. So they took embryonic stem cells, which can develop into all of the cells of the human body, and removed this gene. They then watched as the cells aged prematurely, and found that the reason they became older so quickly had to do with how their DNA was packaged.

In order to function properly, DNA is tightly twisted and wound into chromosomes that resemble a rope in the nucleus of cells. Only when the cell is ready to divide does the DNA unwrap itself, and even then, only in small segments at a time. In patients with Werner syndrome, the chromosomes are slightly messier, more loosely stuffed into the nuclei, and that leads to instability that pushes the cell to age more quickly. Belmonte discovered that the Werner gene regulates this chromosome stability. When he allowed the embryonic stem cells that were missing this gene to grow into cells that go on to become bone, muscle and more, he saw that these cells aged more quickly. "It’s clear that when you have alterations in [chromosome stability], the process of aging goes so quickly and so fast that it’s tempting to say, yes, this is the key process for driving aging," says Belmonte.

Even more exciting, when he analyzed a population of stem cells taken from the dental pulp of both younger and older people, he found that the older individuals, aged 58 to 72 years, had fewer genetic markers for the chromosome instability while the younger people aged seven to 26 years showed higher levels of these indicators.

"What this study means is that this protein does not only work in a particular genetic disease, it works in all humans," says Belmonte. "This mechanism is general for aging process." Before it can be considered as the Fountain of Youth, however, Belmonte says new and better techniques need to be developed that can more specifically and safely alter the Werner gene in people, not just a culture dish of human cells. He also stresses that there may be other processes contributing to aging, and it’s not clear yet how important chromosome stability is compared to those factors. But, he says. "having technologies like this will allow us to determine how important each of these parameters are for aging." And if the findings hold up, they could be first step toward finding a way to help cells, and eventually people, live longer.

Closer to home, Stanford University seems to agree with this science. Its website proclaims ""Now we have found a way to lengthen human telomeres by as much as 1,000 nucleotides, turning back the internal clock in these cells by the equivalent of many years of human life," said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and director of the university’s Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology. "This new approach paves the way toward preventing or treating diseases of aging," said Blau. "There are also highly debilitating genetic diseases associated with telomere shortening that could benefit from such a potential treatment." Read More...

WCIRB Officials Support 10.2% Rate Reduction
Fri, 1 May 2015 08:52:44 - Pacific Time
The WCIRB testified this week at a California Department of Insurance (CDI) public hearing regarding the WCIRB’s July 1, 2015 Pure Premium Rate Filing which was submitted to the CDI on April 6, 2015.

WCIRB Executive Vice President and Chief Actuary Dave Bellusci, along with President and CEO Bill Mudge, presented the actuarial basis for the WCIRB’s average proposed July 1, 2015 advisory pure premium rate of $2.46 which reflects a 10.2% reduction from the average approved January 1, 2015 advisory pure premium rate of $2.74. Among the primary factors driving the proposed decrease are favorable medical loss development, lower than projected indemnity and medical claim severity, and better than expected accident year losses for 2014. While the current indications are favorable in terms of losses, Mr. Bellusci cautioned that increasing claim frequency in the Los Angeles area and increases in loss adjustment expenses are of concern and will continue to be monitored by the WCIRB and its Actuarial Committee.

The presentation delivered by Mr. Bellusci and Mr. Mudge is available in the Filings section of the WCIRB website.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer announced that the record will officially close at 5:00PM, on May 1, 2015. The Commissioner is expected to issue a decision with respect to the WCIRB’s filing within 30 days of the close of the record. The WCIRB will post the decision to its website once it is issued by the Commissioner and will release a WCIRB Wire story. Read More...

Lockton Paper Investigates a "Creeping Catastrophe" Claim
Thu, 30 Apr 2015 08:54:38 - Pacific Time
A recent paper, Red Herrings and Medical Overdiagnosis Drive Large-Loss Workers’ Compensation Claims published by Keith Rosenblum, senior strategist for Workers’ Compensation Risk Control in Lockton’s Kansas City operation describes what all risk and claims professionals see time and again. The common musculoskeletal injury where recovery stalls, no treatment works and the injury becomes a "creeping catastrophe."

"Five percent of injured workers account for 80 percent of the cost and lost time in workers’ compensation systems" according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. "The majority of these workers end up on long-term disability following injuries that would not be considered serious at their outset." One-third of Social Security Disability’s recipients are receiving benefits because of musculoskeletal disabilities. Low-back injuries are the most costly, and the most researched, musculoskeletal conditions. Lockton’s large claims database indicates that low back injuries represent 20 percent of all loss dollars. When looking at claims over $250,000, they represent 25 percent of loss dollars.

Studies have shown that in the Medicare population, spinal imaging (especially MRI) rose by a dramatic 300 percent in the last decade reported (1994-2004). During that period, more diagnoses have been based on detected "abnormalities" with a corresponding 300 percent increase in aggressive and expensive treatment. As a consequence, costs have increased roughly tenfold. A similar expense in delivering invasive treatments solely from these imaging studies in workers’ compensation is creating more large loss claims.

These results, according to Lockton, are 'grossly disappointing' because outcomes for workers have not improved. In fact, the availability of more precise imaging has meant that workers are disabled longer than historical baselines. Disability rates among working age Americans are higher than at any time in our country’s history, and the problem is getting worse. According to Lockton, If images showing structural abnormalities have not improved results, it looks like patients and medical professionals are going down the wrong path.

Based on the latest science, the Lockton pager says that many of these diagnoses are red herrings. In medicine, a red herring is a diagnosis made based on poor science or inaccurate criteria. False certainty is created, and the search for the actual problem ends. In chronic pain cases, imaging findings are often red herrings. The real source of pain and distress usually lies elsewhere, being generated by soft tissue or by the brain itself, or a combination. Medical overdiagnosis occurs when a physician labels a condition more serious than it truly is, attributing a usually benign condition to causes more serious than the scientific data and situation warrant. The medical literature suggests that in more than 90 percent of common situations, an alleged diagnosis based on MRI "abnormalities" represents medical over-diagnosis.

The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society put together an independent panel of experts to systematically review world literature concerning low-back pain. Their findings noted many asymptomatic volunteers have changes in their spines that look exactly the same on MRI as spines of people with pain. The panel recommended that many common low-back diagnoses be completely abandoned. These included lumbar disc protrusion, lumbar disc herniation, lumbar spondylosis, and others. The panel advocated that these entities be replaced by the term "nonspecific low-back pain." This can be interpreted as an acknowledgement that most anatomically based "diagnoses" for pain confer no medical benefit to the patient..

As a solution, the authors of the Lockton paper have been actively following, assessing, and piloting the integration of one of the innovative new models in diagnostic technology that addresses potential chronic pain cases in their various stages of development. "We have been able to definitively identify which of several possible sources is creating a specific worker’s pain by integrating NeuroPAS Global’s NP3 testing methodology along with behavioral medicine assessment in some of our clients’ claims processes. The resulting clarity has enabled more workers to be referred for appropriate physical rehabilitation or cognitive behavioral therapy in lieu of surgery and chronic opioids." Some insurance carriers and TPAs are working toward or are starting to pilot these technologies earlier in the life of a claim.

Lockton concludes "From a claims perspective, we believe that intervening early in the claim (2-4 weeks) by engaging physicians to comply with medical treatment guidelines, diagnose patients complaints based more on evidence-based medicine and less on imaging studies where not recommended, will make a substantial impact on the 5 percent of workers’ claims and their 80 percent of costs. Read More...

Restoration of Historic Resort Results in Jail Time
Thu, 30 Apr 2015 08:54:31 - Pacific Time
The man overseeing rehabilitation of the historic Hoberg’s Resort in Lake County has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor labor code violation in connection with asbestos removal from the property in 2011 and 2012. The complaint against Daniel E. Nelson alleged that he repeatedly violated state workplace safety laws governing the removal of asbestos during demolition, potentially exposing employees to the hazardous material, Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson said in a written statement.

According to the story in the Press Democrat, Nelson said that he accepted blame because he was overseeing the project, but the person who actually committed the asbestos cleanup violations was the contractor hired to do the job. A civil lawsuit against the contractor is pending, he said.

Nelson’s plea agreement includes three years of probation, 60 days in the county jail, 340 hours of community service, a $5,000 fine and a payment of $20,000 to the Lakeside Health Clinic in Lake County, Anderson said. Nelson noted he’s eligible for electronic monitoring and said he’s likely to be able to continue working on the resort rehabilitation project instead of being jailed.

In exchange for the plea, charges alleging Nelson failed to secure worker’s compensation insurance and failed to implement emission control measures were dismissed, Anderson said. But the punishment attached to the plea agreement reflects the other charges, he said. Nelson also had previously been convicted in Santa Clara County for one count of worker’s compensation insurance fraud, Anderson said.

The Lake County case against Nelson stems from restoration efforts at Hoberg’s Resort, located on 55 wooded acres high on Cobb Mountain. In its heyday decades ago, the resort catered to families, movie stars and spiritual seekers. It included a lodge, ballroom, dining hall, swimming pool and more than 100 small cabins. Nelson and his backers, Lake County Partners LLC, plan eventually to add time-share condominiums. It has already erected a stage where it has held music events.

The asbestos work connected with the Lake County charges against Nelson took place when the resort was owned by Cobb Mountain Partners, which purchased the property in 2010 for $2 million, according to county records. The company sold amid debt and legal problems linked to the rehabilitation of the site. Lake County Partners - which includes Silvester Rabic, a Bay Area real estate developer and partner in a mortgage company, and Frank Sasselli, a communications entrepreneur - purchased the property last year for $1.2 million. Nelson said good progress is being made on the resort, including completion of 16 rooms, a wine bar and welcome center. He expects it to reopen this summer with a fitness center, deli and spa. Read More...

Marijuana Shop Owners Arrested for Comp Fraud After Shootout
Wed, 29 Apr 2015 07:59:13 - Pacific Time
Tiffany Shorter, 26, and Jabe Satterfield, 77, owners of the Green Cactus Collective Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Palmdale, were arrested on multiple felony counts of insurance fraud. The owners failed to carry workers' compensation benefits for their employees and allegedly told a security officer to lie about his employment status after he sustained severe injuries from two separate robberies at the dispensary, leaving him without benefits and responsible for expensive medical bills.

In November of 2013 Arcenio Tavares, a 34 year old security officer, was shot three times while suspects wearing bandanas and hoodies robbed the dispensary. After he spotted the three males approaching with guns in their hands he drew his handgun, but was shot multiple times by one of the suspects. Despite being hit by the bullets, Tavares returned fire and the suspects ran off on foot. Sheriff's Capt. Don Ford said at the time that the dispensary itself was illegal because such businesses are not permitted in unincorporated Los Angeles County. Shorter and Satterfield allegedly told their employee to lie to hospital personnel by saying he was a volunteer and not an employee, which made him ineligible for workers' compensation insurance benefits. The employee, without workers' compensation benefits and in fear of losing his job, continued working.

In December of 2013, the dispensary was robbed again and the same employee, while still recovering from gunshot wounds from the prior attack, was beaten with a firearm and sustained further injuries. Again, the lack of coverage by his employers left him without medical benefits and liable for all medical expenses.

Shorter and Satterfield are facing up to four years in prison if convicted and were booked into the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Palmdale Station. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting this case. Shorter and Satterfield are due to appear in court on May 18, 2015 at the Criminal Courts Building, Department 30.

The Green Cactus Collective was located at 36153 Sierra Highway in Palmdale. A new medical marijuana dispensary now occupies that location but the D.A.’s office said it is not known whether Shorter and Satterfield are associated with the new business.

"This case serves as a reminder that workers' compensation fraud is a costly crime for employees who are left uncovered when their employers cheat the system," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "The costs of these crimes are passed on to consumers through higher rates and premiums and drain the state's economy of billions of dollars annually." Read More...

Company Officials Face Prison For Worker's Death
Wed, 29 Apr 2015 07:59:05 - Pacific Time
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that Bumble Bee Foods LLC and two others were charged with willfully violating worker safety rules, allegedly causing the 2012 death of an employee who became trapped inside an industrial oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant. Bumble Bee Foods, LLC, is a company that produces canned tuna, salmon, other seafoods, and chicken. The company is headquartered in San Diego. The brand is marketed as Clover Leaf in Canada. It is now owned by the British private equity firm Lion Capital.

"We take worker safety very seriously," District Attorney Lacey said. "For the past year, prosecutors and investigators from my office have begun rolling out to major industrial incidents involving serious worker injuries and death. Our goal is to enhance the criminal prosecution of workplace safety violations. Although the Bumble Bee investigation began in 2012, this case represents our commitment to protecting workers from illegal - and, potentially, deadly - on-the-job practices."

Bumble Bee’s former Safety Manager Saul Florez (dob 3/7/73), the company’s Director of Plant Operations Angel Rodriguez (dob 1/30/52), and Bumble Bee Foods LLC were charged in case BA435950 with three felony counts each of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violation causing death.

Prosecutors said on Oct. 11, 2012, victim Jose Melena, 62, of Wilmington, entered a 35-foot-long cylindrical oven as part of his job duties at Bumble Bee’s Santa Fe Springs plant. The oven is used to sterilize cans of tuna. Coworkers were unaware that Melena was inside the oven when they loaded multiple carts, collectively containing about 12,000 pounds of tuna, closed the front door and started the oven. The victim inadvertently became trapped in the back of the super-heated, pressurized steam cooker. During the two-hour heat sterilization process, the oven’s internal temperature rose to about 270 degrees. Melena’s severely burned remains were discovered by a coworker, prosecutors said. Melena worked for the company for about six years.

In 2013 the company was fined nearly $74,000 and cited for six safety violations for the death. It was given "serious" citations for failing to evaluate and identify the 10 ovens in the production area as hazardous and permit-required spaces. The company was also faulted for not implementing a program to address safety precautions while working inside a large oven, which is required by law. It was also faulted for not informing workers about the areas with "danger" signs.

If convicted as charged, Florez of Whittier and Rodriguez of Riverside face a maximum sentence of three years in state prison and/or a $250,000 fine. San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods faces a maximum fine of $1.5 million. The case remains under investigation by the Cal/OSHA Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

In a statement, Bumble Bee said, "we remain devastated by the loss of our colleague Jose Melena in the tragic accident that occurred at our Santa Fe Springs plant in October 2012. Bumble Bee cooperated fully with Cal-OSHA in its post-accident investigation, which found no willful violations related to the accident. We disagree with and are disappointed by the charges filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. We are currently exploring all options with respect to those charges and will proceed in the manner that best serves the needs of the Melena family, our employees and the Company. Safety has always been and will always be a top priority at our facilities. Since the 2012 accident, we have made our safety program even more robust, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the safest possible workplace for our employees."

The defendants are expected to be arraigned on May 27 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. The case will be prosecuted by Hoon Chun, assistant head deputy of the Consumer Protection Division, and Deputy District Attorney Christopher Curtis of the Environmental Crimes/OSHA Section. Read More...

Past Week News Archive


DWC Requests Comment on Proposed Interpreter Fee Schedule: Tue, 28 Apr 2015 11:23:38 - Pacific Time: Read More...


WCIRB Study Says Small Number of Providers Trigger 83% of IMR Determinations: Tue, 28 Apr 2015 11:23:33 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Chronic Pain Predicted by MRI Finding: Mon, 27 Apr 2015 09:30:42 - Pacific Time: Read More...


DWC Posts Revisions to Benefit Notice Regs: Mon, 27 Apr 2015 09:30:36 - Pacific Time: Read More...


WCIRB Report Shows Improving Conditions for California Carriers: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 11:54:54 - Pacific Time: Read More...


DIR Reports 2013 Fatal Occupational Injuries: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 11:54:48 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Bay Area Psychologist Convicted of Comp Fraud: Thu, 23 Apr 2015 07:43:23 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Judge Approves NFL Class-Action Settlement: Thu, 23 Apr 2015 07:43:17 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Amended MTUS Regulations Now Final: Wed, 22 Apr 2015 10:43:05 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Weekend Hospitalizations Increase Risk of Preventable Illnesses: Wed, 22 Apr 2015 10:42:59 - Pacific Time: Read More...