When I tell my non-workers’ comp friends that I handled 14 “walk-throughs” today, they get all sort of interesting images in their heads. Some imagine a beauty pageant type of promenade of attorneys through the courtroom. Others think it is some sort of new video feature of EAMS, where settlement documents grow virtual legs, if and only if, they comply with Reg. §10280… For others, well, I’m not at liberty to elaborate, given this is a “G” rated blog.
Contrary to the creative imaginings of my quirky friends, a “walk-through” is defined in Reg. §10280(a) as “a document that is presented to a workers' compensation administrative law judge for immediate action.” Following the directions set forth in this regulation is the key to a successful “walk-through.” So, let’s walk through each of the 10 steps of the walk-through rule, Regulation §10280.
1. The first document filed with the WCAB, in any given case, is called a “case opening document.” Usually, a case opening document is the application for adjudication. However, sometimes, the settlement document is the “case opening document.” If that’s the case, then it is necessary to submit the settlement (that is the case opening document) before noon on the day prior to your intended walk-through day. (See §10280(d)(1)(A).) It must be designated as a “walk-through” document and it must be filed only at the district office that has venue. (See §10280(g).) This will give the staff at the district office adequate time to set up the file on this case, assign an ADJ case number and scan the documents into EAMS. This rule doesn’t apply if the case has already been opened, and has an EAMS ADJ number attached to it. If your case has an EAMS ADJ number, you may “walk-through” your document on the same day it is filed, but the rules set forth below still apply.
2. Make sure your document is one of the following which is permissible for the “walk-through” process: (See §10280(c).)
- Compromise and release
- Stipulations with request for award
- Petitions for attorney’s fees for representation of the applicant in vocational rehabilitation
- Petitions for attorney’s fees for representation of the applicant at a deposition
- Petitions to compel attendance at a medical examination or deposition.
PRACTICE TIP>>> Some attorneys have attempted to walk-through documents such as a Petition for Sanctions or a Petition for Dismissal and are quite surprised when they are turned away. Others have tried to walk-through “Emergency Petitions for Stay,” completely unaware that submission of these types of documents are subject to a completely different rules, pursuant to Reg. §10281.
3. All walk-through documents must be accompanied by the appropriate EAMS forms, such as the document cover sheet and the document separator sheet. In addition, for all settlement documents, the proof of service must show that the document was served on all parties, including any lien claimants whose liens have not been resolved. (See Reg. §10280(d)(1).
4. As discussed above, a walk-through document must be processed only at the district office that has venue. (See Reg. §10280(g).) For venue rules, review the following venue statutes and regs: LC §§5501.5, 5501.6 and 8 CCR §§10409, 10410, 10411, 10412, 10210 (jj), 10301(gg) & 10232(a)(9).
PRACTICE TIP>>> People often get confused when the second venue choice has been selected. The second venue choice is the county where the injury occurred. People sometimes think that the employer’s place of business is synonymous with the place of injury. That is often the case. But it is not always the case. For instance, a trucking company may be based in San Francisco, but an employee of that company might be injured in a car accident in Los Angeles. If a workers’ comp claim was filed in this case, which district office has venue? If venue is based on the county where the injury occurred, the Los Angeles district office would be the appropriate location and not San Francisco.
5. If the assigned walk-through judge is unavailable, it is perfectly permissible to ask the Presiding Judge (PJ) for a possible reassignment to another judge. (See Reg. §10280(e).)
6. It should be noted, however, that “judge shopping” is strictly prohibited. Therefore, if a judge has reviewed a document, and has declined to approve it for some reason, any further action on that document must be taken by the original reviewing judge.
7. If you are walking through a document in a case where a particular judge has previously taken testimony, your walk-though document must be presented to that judge for approval. (See Reg. §10280(h).)
8. For the above situations, under certain circumstances, such as the retirement of the original judge, it may be appropriate to ask the PJ for permission to have the document acted upon by another judge, but that would be the exception, not the rule. (See Reg. §10280(h).)
9. If you try to walk-through either a “Petition for Attorney’s Fees” or a “Petition to Compel Attendance,” don’t expect to get a final order on the day of the walk-through. When approving these types of petitions, the judge is required by Reg. §10280(i) to issue a 10 day “self-destruct” Notice of Intent Order in compliance with Reg. §10349. (Reg. §10349 defines an “Notice of Intent Order” as one which is null and void if a party files an objection within 10 days from service of the order. The party must set forth in their objection good cause as to why the Order should be rendered null and void.) So it’s important to calendar this to determine the date that your order becomes final.
10. Finally, present your walk-through document during the appropriate business hours which are: from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on court days. If you arrive at 11:30 a.m., you may be asked to walk your document through during the afternoon session. If you arrive at 4:30 p.m, you may be asked to walk your document the next court day.
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