Petition tries to disqualify all workers’ compensation judges in two district offices

Claim alleges toll of the job resulted in worker's death

Petition tries to disqualify all workers’ compensation judges in two district offices

The unilateral and/or subjective perception of a party to a workers’ compensation case regarding whether there was bias did not constitute a factual or legal basis for disqualifying a workers’ compensation administrative law judge, a recent ruling said.

The case of Marsau vs. Stander Reubens Thomas Kinsey and Valley Forge Insurance, administered by CNA Claims Plus arose from two applications for the adjudication of a workers’ compensation claim. The first, filed on behalf of the deceased applicant, alleged that the repetitive and cumulative stress of his employment with the defendant resulted in his death last December.

The second was brought on behalf of the deceased’s dependents, specifically his widow, his daughter, and his son. Both applications were filed at the Sacramento District Office.

Read more: Widow seeking workers' compensation says spouse died due to COVID-19

In February, the defendant filed a petition for disqualification relating to all workers’ compensation administrative law judges at the Sacramento and Stockton Appeals Board district offices. The defendant also brought a request to transfer the venue, based on the judges’ disqualification, to a district office other than the ones in Sacramento and Stockton.

A panel of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board of California denied the petition for disqualification and the request to change the venue. The panel returned the matter to the workers’ compensation administrative law judge for further proceedings as appropriate.

Upon the return to the trial level, if the defendant still wanted a transfer of venue from the Sacramento District Office, it should submit that issue to the presiding workers’ compensation administrative law judge for Sacramento, the panel said.

The panel held that the Appeals Board should determine a petition for disqualification of a workers’ compensation administrative law judge. However, the request to transfer the venue was not properly brought before the panel and would not be further addressed at this stage since the presiding judge at the district office where the petition was filed should be the one to initially tackle such a request. After that, the party who lost could ask for a review by the Appeals Board.

The panel noted that there was no statutory or case law allowing the disqualification of multiple workers’ compensation administrative law judges by a party filing a single petition to disqualify. The Appeals Board previously stated that parties could not seek blanket disqualifications and should instead seek disqualifications on a case-by-case basis.

Read more: Doctor’s shift in opinion justifies reopening workers’ compensation claim

Lastly, the panel said that, once the proper venue has been determined and once the matter has been assigned to a workers’ compensation administrative law judge, the defendant could again ask for disqualification if appropriate.

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