Even when employers compensate victims for personal injuries, the legal battle often isn’t over. That was the case for California port workers suffering injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, reports the San Francisco Daily Journal. When Sandra Towne was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in 2002, employer after employer refused to pay for her medical treatment. Fortunately, an 8-year court battle concluded last year, deermining that California United Terminals would pay the $24,000 medical bills. But that leaves eight years of legal fees unaccounted for. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave workers a hand, ruling that CUT must pay Towne’s legal fees as well.
Towne’s lawyer told the Journal that past court decisions actually creative an incentive for companies to dodge workers’ compensation payments. Metropolitian Stevedore Co. v. Crescent Wharf & Warehouse, for example, said that the last employer to hire a worker must pay for the procedure, a clear reason companies might decide to delay payment, encouraging “this bizarre game of musical chairs where the last employer standing gets stuck with compensation,” said Charles Naylor.
Workers’ compensation for port workers is a niche legal field serviced by personal injury attorneys throughout California. But even the strongest advocacy groups can’t do much for wokers’ rights if court precedent points to protecting companies from shouldering the burden of workers’ compensation bills and related legal fees. Last week’s Appeals Court decision will surely clear the way for better protection of California personal injury lawsuits for dock workers.
Photo credit: JAXPORT