Workers' Compensation

Spotlight on Distinguished Members of the CLA Workers’ Compensation Section

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Amy Shen

Amy Shen, an Associate Attorney at the applicant firm Boxer & Gerson in Oakland, is excited to be a new member of the Workers’ Compensation Executive Committee.  Amy joined Boxer & Gerson in March of 2018 after working as a defense attorney for 15 years, as in-house counsel and also for a prominent defense firm. 

How was it to switch sides of the bar?

In workers’ compensation, we have a close community, so the attorneys have a pretty good understanding of each other.  For me, the most surprising part of being an applicant’s attorney is dealing with other defense attorneys.  You know them as a co-defendants, but you do not deal with them in that capacity.  It seems that the younger generation of more recent law school graduates are more aggressive defense attorneys, or at least they approach things differently than I would.   But from my experience, I can think about a case from both sides, and that’s an advantage as an applicant attorney.   So the work on this side is different but I enjoy it, especially the interaction with my clients.  I’ve received some lovely letters of thanks.  Once I settled a case for what would be regarded as a small sum but the client was so grateful, she knitted me pot holders!

As compared to the defense practice, do you have to establish a different sort of relationship with your client, the applicant?

Yes, it is more personal.  Today, I was hired because I am a Corgi mom!   I was featured in an article on the Boxer & Gerson website with a picture of my Corgi, Stumpy, which is short for Sir Stumpleton Shen III.   As a defense attorney, I dealt with many in pro per clients and some were difficult, but some were very appreciative.  For an injured worker, the workers’ comp system is very complicated when you do not know how to navigate through it and can be frustrating when you are trying to figure out your benefits. 

Do you have a favorite law or case?

Cumulative trauma is a concept that is fascinating.  Judge Levin in San Jose schooled me on end date of cumulative trauma.  It was the case where both applicant’s attorney and I were in agreement, but the judge disagreed.  That was that!  You can be talking to your client about symptoms and they might say, one day this started hurting because in regular course of duty I do this and they have a cumulative injury.  I find that many primary treating physicians do not know about cumulative trauma injuries either.  I like examining the medical and legal basis using temporary disability, permanent disability, and/or work restrictions to define the ending date of the cumulative trauma.  There are interesting questions as to whether multiple end dates exist and what will work best to benefit my client.  The benefit of the client is paramount, whether you are an applicant’s attorney or defense attorney. 

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Brian Egan

Brian Egan is a Senior Partner at Laughlin Falbo Levy & Moresi in San Francisco.   He was admitted to the Bar in 1992, but started in workers compensation in 1987, as a claims examiner. 

Have you always worked on the defense side?

Actually, I have worked for only one firm for my entire career.  In an area of law where people move around a lot, I think it’s a testament to the firm in that I have been here for some 28 years.  Yet, I am only the third most senior person in the firm. 

As an experienced partner, what do you say to new attorneys?

Some people tend to think that because workers’ compensation is administrative law, it does not have to be taken seriously as civil litigation.  But I always try to impress that the cases we have are real and deal with real people’s livelihood and lives.   For new associates, it’s important to be the smartest person in the room, that is, you need to know your file better than anyone in order to get the best results.  Because it is a volume business, it might feel that there is not enough time but you really need to spend as much as time as it takes to get the job done.  And then have an outside life, of course (laughs).

Do you have a favorite law or case that comes to mind?

I got to argue the Facunto-Guerrero v. WCAB case (163 Cal.App. 4th 640, 77 Cal. Rptr. 3d 731) in appellate court.  This is the case challenging the cap of 24 chiropractic visits or physical therapy sessions and it challenged the constitutionality of Labor Code section 4604.5.  My opposing counsel was former State Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian, so I was exhilarated and terrified at the same time! 

In the Labor Code, an applicant’s attorney once pointed out “SWAG”- Scientific Wild-Ass Guess in the glossary for the Labor Code.  I will point this out to clients.  You need to keep things light sometimes, especially after reading some of those medical reports (Laughs).    

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you?

I consider myself a fairly social person and I miss the personal interaction.  Zoom just does not do it for me.   I hope we do not lose touch or fall out of groove in the group dynamic in the comp community.     I miss the opportunity to walk down the hall and talk to five people along the way, getting feedback from all five about a doctor or an issue.  Likewise, our firm has a culture that is unique and supportive, and I miss that.

Yes, there is a distinct workers’ compensation community…

And one of the things I love about this work is that it is so collegial.  It is especially great to see people and connect outside of court.

When I first got out of the insurance company, I interviewed with Jones Clifford and Laughlin Falbo.  I thought my politics were such that I wanted to represent applicants.  But I quickly came to realize that just as many Republicans are representing applicants as Democrats representing defendants.  I managed our Fresno office and the same was true there and in other parts of the state according to our associates and partners.   By and large, this is a very collegial and congenial practice and it is important to get along with people and for the simple reason of getting things done.  Play nicely with your opponent because it’s likely you will have ten or 20 cases with them in the next five years!  

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