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On Vexatious Litigants

The life-time claimants.

Most of us have at least one of these applicants in our past.  You know the ones – no matter how slight or serious their injuries, they refuse to move on with their lives.  Often enough, their own attorneys have had enough of them and they find themselves living out that old proverb about having oneself for a client.

All of a sudden, everything becomes “sanctionable” conduct, Defense lawyers are reported to the bar by the applicants for anything and everything.  The Workers’ Compensation Judge has to hear about the laundry list of abuses practiced by the defense.

Before you know it, the applicant starts relying on such relevant authority as Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Constitution of the State of Idaho, and probably some United States Resolution regarding water rights.

Meanwhile, the defense attorneys are racking up a bill reading and responding to every pointless 30 page brief the applicant files.  Soon you start suspecting the method to the madness is the expense inflicted upon the defendant in defending its position.

Well, one remedy the defense has at its disposal is that of California Code of Regulations section 10782, which allows a self-represented applicant to be declared a “vexatious litigant.”  If successful, the applicant can only file documents which the presiding judge has approved, filtering out a lot of the meaningless gibberish the defense would otherwise have to waste time on.

This is a very difficult maneuver to pull off and the standard is fairly high.  But, in a recent writ denied case, defendant was successful in doing just that!

Sylvia Santos filed four applications for three specific injuries and one (3-day) cumulative trauma.  Unrepresented she fought the defense tooth and nail on routine issues like release of medical records.

Defendant’s investigation revealed that Santos had filed an application for the same body parts against almost every employer she has had.

In response to defendant’s petition to have applicant declared a vexatious litigant, applicant filed a petition to have defendant declared a vexatious litigant, too!

The insanity continued, with applicant accusing the WCJ of bias against the applicant, and claiming the vexatious litigant regulation is unconstitutional.

The WCJ found applicant a vexation litigant, and the Workers’ Compensation Appeals board denied applicant’s petition for reconsideration.

In denying applicant’s petition for writ of review, the Court of Appeal reasoned that:

“a review of this record shows that Santo’s multiple filings do not serve the interest of her moving her cases forward toward decision on the essential issues, but, instead, a great deal of court time has been required to understand, organize and respond to the pleadings and other documents.  The designation of vexatious litigant will not prevent Santos from proceeding with her claims or from having the opportunity to be heard, but will allow the [presiding judge] to examine her conditionally filed documents to determine which documents may be appropriately organized and filed in order to mover [sic] her case to adjudication.”

If you’re dealing with one of these life-time cases, perhaps § 10782 is something to look into as a possible strategy.  If you have any luck with it, let me know – your humble editor would love to hear the story.

  1. Lauren G. Corson
    October 21, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    This is a very interesting article, thanks for sharing. I would be interested in the name of the case. Thanks. 🙂

  2. October 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Lauren – the case is Sylvia Santos v. WCAB (Guard Management). Let me know if you’d like a copy of the opinion and I’ll shoot it over.

    Thanks!

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