Have to disagree with your editorial. As a certified specialist in Workers Compensation I feel the need to correct some of your statements both about Ms. Lowenthal's case (which I know nothing about other than your article and editorial) and the worker compensation system in general.
The question is whether Lowenthal's injury "arose out of and in the course of her employment" of the city.
So we look at Ms. Lowenthal's job duties.
City officials are expected to meet with other politicians in order to further advance the needs of the city. It is part of her job duties. It is especially important when the politician might become the president of the United States.
If a city secretary was invited to go to meet Kerry it would have nothing to do with her job duties. Her injury would not arise out of nor be in the course of her employment.
Think of it this way, IF Ms. Lowenthal and the other city officials who were invited to meet with Kerry had NOT shown up and he HAD become president, where would that leave us?
"Mr. President, the City of Long Beach would like you to (fill in the blank)."
"Oh, you mean the City Council who didn't show up when I visited their city?"
Yeah, she was invited because she was a Democrat. If it was Bush, the Republicans would have been invited.
It would be a different situation if Ms. Lowenthal was going door to door campaigning for Kerry, of if she had paid for a ticket to a fundraiser for Kerry etc. But in this case, where a visiting dignatary is visiting the city I see a valid reason for her to be there as a City official.
Now on to your discussion of the worker compensation law. First, they are not broadly construed in favor of the applicant. Such statements shows ignorance of the current state of worker compensation law.
You implied that the city was settling this for "nuisance value". That isn't how I read it. The settlement you describe is a stipulation with request for award. It was for 12% and was for $10,500.00. This would be permanent disability.
After the worker compensation reform which was bullied through the legislature by the Governor in April 2004, permanent disability for injured workers has been slashed by 50-70%.
Not a whole lot of money if she is having serious residual problems, but this is the reality that we are now dealing with.
Medical treatment is difficult to obtain, temporary total disability which is paid while an injured worker is recovering is cut off after 2 years no matter what -- even if the injured worker is waiting for the insurance company to authorize necessary surgery at the time the two years expires.
I invite you to go to http://caaa.org and read some of the injured workers horror stories to see how "favorable" the system is to injured workers. Or, come down to my office and I will show you some of the horror stories I encounter daily.
Finally, you indicate that in the worker compensation system that "loser pays the attorney fees."
Totally incorrect. Injured worker's Attorneys usually receive 15% of what they recover for their clients in the Worker Compensation system. It is money OUT of the injured workers benefits not on TOP. If Lowenthal has an attorney in this case, her attorney fees are probably about $1500.00 and will be paid out of the moneys owed to Ms. Lowenthal. Same thing if she went to trial. When our clients benefits were cut by 50% -70% so were our fees.
s/ Wendy Cantrell
Law Offices of Richard Mark Baker