Workers' Compensation

Voice from the Chair: Compassion and Action

Please share:

We are all, I believe, feeling pain and hurt.

We started 2020 feeling relatively optimistic and hopeful for a good and successful year.

Instead, we are experiencing the limitations of our preparedness and of the structure of our society and legal system as it existed before COVID, and before the George Floyd killing.

While we are all disturbed by the social unrest taking place across the nation, we are, I believe finally at a point of forced introspection, self-evaluation, and appreciation of the need to make deep systemic changes to our society and the world.

Racially, the need is obvious and long overdue. All our institutions, assumptions and laws need to be re-evaluated and reconsidered to make the changes necessary to achieve the goal of a more just society. That this is long overdue goes without saying. Talking is not enough and we all have a responsibility to play a role in change.

Our workers’ compensation system is not immune to this need. Our precedents and legal holding need to be reviewed going forward to determine the extent to which racial (or any other kind of) bias has played a role and needs to be changed.

In terms of the lessons we are learning from COVID the message is clear: we need to revamp our way of doing things to prepare for the future and what it may bring as well as dealing with this crisis.

In terms of flexibility, the use of technology is no longer merely a desirable goal, it is an absolute necessity.  The public will not give us the benefit of the doubt if we are not ready for the next crisis. Our system is already in the process of doing this and we are working out the kinks and dealing with unanticipated problems on an ongoing basis. Our courts, the judiciary and bar are all to be praised for service above and beyond the call of duty in dealing with this crisis.

We are all, ultimately, human beings with families, and have our own worries about our health and that of our families and friends. Despite this fact, we have continued working from home and doing our best to make things work as well as possible even during this crisis. I have had numerous discussions, after discussing files with defense attorneys also working from home and have come to appreciate even more our shared humanity. In fact, one defense attorney was talking to me on his cell phone while undergoing chemotherapy! Another interrupted a lunch with his fiancé to communicate with me. Yet another was expecting his first child’s birth shortly.

My point is that we need to realize our shared humanity and the common interest we all have in making this system to which we have devoted our lives work as fairly and effectively as possible, all while taking care of our loved ones and ourselves.

While we as attorneys are advocates, we are also, and I believe, possibly more importantly, counsel with all that word implies. We make this system work not only by litigating but by properly advising our clients and by working to find a reasonable and acceptable compromise where such is possible. Our system is not set up to litigate every case, it depends on reasonable adjustment and compromise as well.

My fervent wish is that we take this difficult time as an opportunity to make things better and to remember our values and act from them.

I send my best wishes to the community in this difficult time. Please note that while the California Lawyers Association will have the annual convention and while our committee will present three programs as part of that event, we will be doing so virtually with further information to be forthcoming. Our ongoing webinar series is available, and we are of course making plans for many more legal presentations to be announced in the next few months.

However, because we have been unable to complete our ambitious plans for the year and considering the disruption caused by recent events, the committee has voted to carry over all current members and officers for one additional year. In doing so, we hope to complete all that we have planned along with additional programming to address the issues raised by COVID.

In this issue of the Enews, we feature an article by Elizabeth Furlow, the Chair of the subcommittee on technology and Social media, wherein she provides an update regarding the subcommittee and recent activity.   We are also excited to present a timely analysis by Randy Pollak, our Publications Committee Co-Chair and Editor of The Quarterly, of the very recent decision of the California Court of Appeal in the matter of County of Santa Clara vs. WCAB (Justice), an important case on the law of apportionment.  Mr. Pollak’s thorough review of the case is a must-read for all practitioners.   

Until next month, let us all exercise our muscles of compassion towards each other and all members of society and let us resolve to take the actions required by this time of awakening and change in our society.

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