Home > Sanctions > Three pennies for your thoughts?

Three pennies for your thoughts?

Would you go to the mattresses over three cents?

In a recent Sacramento case that went up on petition for reconsideration before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, a defendant petitioned for reconsideration on what was, essentially, a clerical error of $0.03.

The facts are essentially these: defendant took credit for over-payment of $13,113.36 in applicant’s upper extremity claim.  The judge then sanctioned defendant $2500 for taking the credit without a judicial determination, but allowed the credit for equitable reasons.  Then it got interesting.

In the minutes of hearing, a clerical error shorted defendant by three cents, providing for $13,113.33 in credit.

The defendant in this case was self-insured (some of the many benefits of which are discussed here) and was administered by a Third Party Administrator.

Before I go any further, I want to make clear that I have not spoken to any parties or their attorneys in this case, and this post is based entirely on the opinion of the WCAB.  If the WCAB overlooked a fact or something didn’t make it into the record, then consider this post incomplete.

The WCAB noted that a request to correct a clerical error would have been the appropriate course of action for defendant’s counsel, rather than a petition for reconsideration.  The WCAB further noted that the minutes of hearing actually reflected two sums, one correct and one erroneous, and this escaped the defendant’s attorney’s notice as well.

Ultimately, the petition for reconsideration was granted, but an additional $500 fine was imposed on the defendant, the defense attorney and her firm (joint and several liability).

Being a California Workers’ Compensation defense attorney, I can sympathize with the defendant in this case.  So often do the defendants find themselves with the deck stacked against them, even three cents can feel like a victory!

In this industry, probably more so than in many others in the legal profession, it is important not to turn cynical or bitter.

It’s not very likely that the outside world will know what happened in this case.  Was it the client, driven by principle?  Was it the TPA, instituting a policy of thousands for defense but not three pennies for tribute?

Ultimately, this is a case for the record books, and a reminder to us all that we mustn’t let all these trees block our view of the forest.  Peek your head out of the foxhole, hold the line, and leave the Pyrrhic victories to King Pyrrhus.  And, as always, good hunting!

Categories: Sanctions
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