Proper Grounds for Changing Venue
In California Workers’ Compensation, what constitutes good cause to grant applicant’s change of venue motion? This is a question that was touched upon in the recent panel decision French v. Warner Brothers (2011) 13 WCAB Rptr. 13,216. However, the answer one can walk away with is not what is, but rather what is not, good cause.
The skinny: The convenience of applicant’s attorney is not sufficient good cause to change the venue of a case.
Here are the essential facts: Applicant filed an application for adjudication of claim, and later an amended application, and in both cases consented to venue at Marina del Rey. Applicant then switched his attorney to one with an office in Long Beach, and moved to South Carolina. His attorney filed a motion to change the venue to Long Beach.
Defendant objected, asserting that the place of injury and the place of business for its witnesses were both in Burbank. As you can imagine, the Workers’ Compensation Judge granted applicant’s motion. (Somehow, the convenience of defendant’s witnesses, or even defendant’s own attorneys, did not seem to matter to the WCJ).
After the matter was set for a Mandatory Settlement Conference, defendant filed a petition for reconsideration, arguing that no order changing venue had ever been received and that there are no valid grounds to change the venue.
As a side-note, because defendant’s grievance was an interim order, the order changing venue, the proper course of action was a petition for a removal, not a petition for reconsideration.
The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, denied the petition for reconsideration, granted the petition for removal, and rescinded the order changing venue.
In other words, the convenience of a new applicant’s attorney is not proper grounds for changing venue.
The WCAB also noted that the WCJ did not make any findings as to the good cause for the change of venue, and that the WCJ erroneously placed the burden of showing good cause not to change the venue on defendant.