The LexisNexis Workers' Compensation Law Center is pleased to present its list of Workers' Compensation Notable People for 2008. These exceptional people have worked tirelessly on behalf of their clients and others and have made significant contributions to the workers' compensation system and/or the workplace.
To create this list we've reached out to several national and state organizations, the Larson's Workers' Compensation Advisory Board members, fellow bloggers, and experts in the field to solicit their nominations.
This list is by no means complete, and we apologize if we have missed some people in your state. The LexisNexis Workers' Compensation Law Center encourages you to post a comment to this blog, telling us who you would've nominated for 2008 and why they deserve to be recognized by our web community.
Workers' Compensation Notable People for 2008Selections by the LexisNexis Workers' Compensation Law Center
Robert M. Clyatt, Esq. is a workers' compensation and personal injury attorney at Robert M. Clyatt, PC, in Valdosta, Georgia, and founder of Kid's Chance, Inc., which was established in 1988 and celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2008. Kid's Chance is a scholarship program to help children of seriously disabled or deceased workers continue their education. Kid's Chance is now the oversight organization for all such programs throughout the United States. For further information, go to http://www.kidschance.org/. Thanks to Mr. Clyatt's tireless efforts, children are able to continue in high school or go on to college or trade school after the work-related death or catastrophic injury of a parent.
John J. Dubreuil, C.P.C.U., the author of Dubreuil's Florida Workers' Compensation Handbook (Matthew Bender), was an icon in the workers' compensation community for over 35 years. He fought a brave battle with cancer, which didn't stop him from writing one more edition of what many call "the bible on Florida workers' compensation law". John had an extraordinary ability to predict how the law would develop. His book was used by both attorneys and adjusters and cited by the courts. He was able to see the 2008 Edition of his book in print before he passed away. He will be greatly missed.
Roy A. Franco, Esq., the Co-Chair of the Medicare Advocacy Recovery Coalition (MARC), is a tireless advocate and grass roots organizer for Medicare Secondary Payor reform. He has identified Medicare and the process it employs to seek reimbursement as counterintuitive to long established liability methods that promote the efficient administration of liability claims. His work to educate the industry about this issue culminated in the formation of MARC, a broad-based group composed of employers, insurance companies, third party administrators and lawyers, which seeks legislation that will improve the efficiency of the Medicare reimbursement process. For further information, go to http://www.marccoalition.com/.
James A. Reiter, Esq., is a partner with Charfoos, Reiter, Peterson, Jones, Dorland & Hebert, P.C., Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is tireless in his efforts to elevate the practice of workers' compensation to a higher national level. His vision culminated in the realization of his idea in 2005 and the formation of the National Workers' Compensation Defense Network. The NWCDN is a nationwide and Canadian network of independent law firms that provides employers and insurers with the highest quality representation in workers' compensation and related employer liability fields. Mr. Reiter and the co-founders recognized that despite an historical belief that workers' compensation issues are matters of purely local or state law, a trend has developed over the past 10 years that states are developing similar statutory provisions. Mr. Reiter chaired NWCDN from its formation in 2003 through 2006 and now serves on the Executive Committee. In another pioneering effort in the field of workers' compensation, Mr. Reiter developed plans and formed the College of Workers' Compensation Attorneys, which held its initial induction ceremony in 2007 and is now a growing organization with well over 100 members of respected attorneys having practiced in the area of workers' compensation for 20 years or more. He is also a member of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and has been listed in Best Lawyers in under workers' compensation law. Mr. Reiter is an active member in the American Bar Association where he mentored the Section of Labor and Employment Law's workers' compensation committee's leadership to set new standards for program quality and participation. Under Mr. Reiter’s tutelage that committee now enjoys high quality annual educational programs and national participation. Mr. Reiter's leadership role in the American Bar Association is significant in the Labor and Employment Law Section, the Section Governing Council, and as liaison to the OSHA, Workers' Compensation and Ethics Committees. There is no more deserving person in the country for recognition in the field of workers’ compensation.
ING Direct is far ahead of its peers when it comes to employee wellness programs. The company has heavily invested in employees' health with an on-site exercise facility, including up to $40 per month in gym fee reimbursement, guidance on fitness principles, nutrition counseling, on-site medical care with a board-certified family physician and a registered nurse available by appointment and on a walk-in basis, and more. The result? At its Delaware facility, more than 200 employees have signed up in the ING Direct exercise facility, the percentage of employees who smoke has decreased by 24 percent, and on-site treatment has resulted in direct and immediate savings of 1,300 working hours. The program is powered by its director, Don Baag, M.D., who strives to effectuate deep-rooted and sustainable behavioral change without intruding on personal privacy and with minimal amount of monetary incentives.
Roger A. Levy, Esq., San Francisco, CA, is the Editor-in-Chief of the Defense Base Act and War Hazards Compensation Act Handbook (LexisNexis Matthew Bender), which was published in September 2008. To fulfill his vision of a practical guide to handling Defense Base Act claims, he brought together a dream team of experts to write the only book that has been published on this important topic. The handbook, which is used by the Dept. of Labor, attorneys, and insurers, has received great reviews. Mr. Levy is a founding partner in Laughlin, Falbo, Levy & Moresi, LLP, the nation's largest firm whose practice is devoted exclusively to the defense of workers' compensation claims. He has specialized in LHWCA and related matters and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars on the LHWCA, Defense Base Act and War Hazards Compensation Act.
Greg Gitter is the President of Gitter & Associates, Inc., www.GitterAssoc.com, headquartered in Escondido, California. Gitter & Associates are special negotiators in Workers’ Compensation for excess carriers, employers, insurance companies and any other parties involved in a Workers’ Compensation claim. They are perhaps the only such company in the United States. In 2008, Gitter & Associates’ settlements saved their clients in excess of $25,000,000 in present value savings off their ultimate exposure, which was in excess of $100,000,000. Greg’s negotiators are the go-to people when excess carriers need an über-adjuster to close that large case. Greg and his team are skilled diplomats whose sole aim is to conclude the claim and get it off the excess carrier’s books.
The Structured Settlement Broker
Teddy Snyder, Esq., is a Certified Structured Settlement Consultant with Ringler Associates in Beverly Hills, California. An attorney with more than 20 years of litigation experience before joining Ringler, Teddy is one of the country’s most knowledgeable structured settlement brokers on the subject of Medicare Set-Asides. She is widely published and a frequent speaker on the subjects of Medicare Set-Asides and litigation management. In 2008, Teddy gave numerous presentations on the impact of the new S-CHIP reporting requirements, including at the RIMS national conference and AttorneyCredits.com. She listens to the parties’ concerns and uses structured settlement annuities to maximize the available funds. Her ability to conform the settlement payout to meet the claimant’s needs is what gets cases settled.
The Champions of Injured Workers
Marguerite Sweeney, Esq., an attorney at Law Office of Marguerite Sweeney in Redding, California, scored a huge victory for injured workers when she took the Sandhagen case all the way to the California Supreme Court and won. The Supreme Court held that the State Compensation Insurance Fund must use the utilization review process, and not the qualified medical evaluator dispute resolution process, when it objected to a medical treatment recommendation. Here, SCIF had used the utilization review process but not within the statutory timeframe. If SCIF had prevailed, insurers would've been able to stall treatment requests in many cases, thereby forcing the worker to go through a lengthy QME process.
William Herreras, Esq., an attorney in Grover Beach, California, Mark Gerlach, an insurance consulant in California, and Joseph Capurro, Esq., of Capurro, Rocha & Schmidt in San Jose, California, have worked tirelessly, volunteering their time and expertise to coordinate and participate in appellate litigation on behalf of injured workers in the aftermath of Senate Bill 899. This complicated legislation drastically changed California's workers' compensation system, resulting in significant state-wide litigation. The leadership of these three individuals to support individual attorneys in their appellate advocacy is unprecedented.
Richard J. Swanson, Esq., an attorney with Macey, Swanson & Allman in Indianapolis, Indiana, is an experienced litigator in all areas of labor and employment law and has represented injured workers throughout the State of Indiana before the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board for the past 25 years. He has consistently been an advocate at the Indiana legislature for the improvement of benefits and procedures under the Indiana Worker's Compensation Act. He is a member of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee, the Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group and is a past Co-Chair of the Worker's Compensation Committee, ABA Section of Labor and Employment. Currently he is working on a national task force to reconcile the interests of Medicare and injured workers.
Leonard T. Jernigan, Jr., Esq., of The Jernigan Law Firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently obtained two decisions from the N.C. Industrial Commission that awarded workers' compensation benefits to two former NFL players. Both players were injured in training camp and the claims were defended vigorously for two years by the Carolina Panthers. Mr. Jernigan is in private practice but he also teaches workers ' compensation law at N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham, N.C. He is a founding member of the Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group, a nationwide group of attorneys who practice in this field. He has been practicing for over 30 years and serves on the Advisory Council of the Industrial Commission.
Andrew J. Reinhardt, Esq. (“Andy”) is a trial attorney with Kerns, Kastenbaum & Reinhardt, PLC, in Richmond, Virginia, who has over 25 years of legal experience and specializes in handling workers’ compensation cases. He has written and spoken extensively on the topic of handling workers’ compensation claims involving multiple jurisdictions and is a member of the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Bars. He is also a longtime member of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Board of Governors and past chair of its workers’ compensation section. Andy is a Board Member and Officer (Assistant Treasurer) of Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), and an active member of the workers compensation section of AAJ formerly (ATLA). He also chaired Virginia’s first and second annual Solo and Small Firm conferences and chaired Virginia ’s first seminar co-sponsored by VTLA and The Virginia Medical Society. He chaired WILG’s annual convention in 2007 in San Antonio, Texas. He has authored dozens of articles and spoken on dozens of occasions on topics related to his areas of specialty. In culmination of much of his work and experience to date, in 2008 he published a major article and spoke before a large audience of lawyers specializing in workers’ compensation on the exhaustive topic of ”Settling Large or Complex Workers’ Compensation Cases with Other Issues Involved Including: Combined Personal Injury Cases, Concerns Regarding Health Insurance, ERISA, SSDI/Medicare, SSI/Medicaid, Special Needs Trusts, Veterans Administration Benefits, Taxation of Workers Compensation Offsets, VRS Benefits and Long Term Disability.” He is currently involved in numerous other significant causes on behalf of injured workers.
Gerald A. Rosenthal, Esq., of Rosenthal, Levy & Simon, P.A., West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie, Florida, began his legal career serving the needs of organized labor. As one of the first attorneys ever to achieve Board Certification from the Florida Bar, Gerry Rosenthal has represented claimants in workers’ compensation matters for nearly 35 years. He is a noted nationwide expert in the areas of severe trauma, toxic exposures and other catastrophic events. Currently, Gerry is lead counsel in three cases of toxic exposure mass workers’ compensation litigation involving thousands of claimants throughout the Southeastern region of the United States. He was recently appointed to a three-year term as the Union and Employee Co-Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Committee of the American Bar Association, Section of Labor and Employment Law. A tireless advocate for injured workers and their families, Gerry has served as the Chair of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Institute’s scholarship committee for over a decade. Annually, FWCI provides one-year scholarships to children of injured workers. A member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Florida-Levin College of Law, Gerry has received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from Florida Workers’ Advocates. Gerald A. Rosenthal is a Fellow of the College of Workers ’ Compensation.
George Martin, Esq., is an attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This year he has served as Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He is a former Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Sections of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association, and Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Associations. He is a past President of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, a fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, and has been named Top 100 lawyers in Pennsylvania by Philadelphia Magazine for the past 3 years.
Edgar Romano, Esq., a New York City attorney with Brecher Fishman Pasternack Walsh Tilker & Ziegler, was elected in 2008 as President of the Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG). In 2008 Mr. Romano was also elected Vice Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the American Association of Justice (formally ATLA) and continues to serve on the Board of Directors of the Society of N.Y. Workers’ Compensation Bar Association. Mr. Romano has been an active trial lawyer in the area of worker’s compensation and lectures throughout the country to numerous bar associations, unions and medical providers. He is on the Advisory Committee to the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program at Mt. Sinai Hospital and is listed in “Who’s Who in American Law”.
The Crusaders for Physicians' Rights
Diana E. Godwin, Esq., an attorney in Portland, Oregon, helped lead the battle against so-called "silent PPOs" in her state. She filed 50 complaints with the Oregon Workers' Compensation Division demanding repayments for her clients – medical providers who treat injured workers – who discovered that insurance companies were applying Preferred Provider Organization discounts to their bills without their knowledge. This resulted in the Division creating an emergency regulation that put her cases on hold and allowed the insurance companies to pay medical providers as they saw fit. Ms. Godwin then filed an action in state court. Meanwhile, the medical providers threatened to stop handling workers' compensation matters. Finally, the Division realized its mistake and issued a permanent rule forbidding insurance companies from unilaterally taking discounts on workers' compensation medical bills unless the medical provider agrees upfront.
Thomas A. Filo, Esq., of Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, LLC, Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Richard Bray Williams, Esq., of the Williams Family Law Firm, Natchitoches, Louisiana, argued on behalf of medical providers in the Louisiana Supreme Court case Broussard Physical Therapy v. Family Dollar Stores and won an important victory in the fight against "silent PPOs". The Court ruled that PPO issues are contract disputes outside the workers' comp jurisdiction but lien claimants have a right to have their claims heard by the Workers' Comp Court because the Office of Workers' Compensation has exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over disputes between health care providers and employers/insurers for payment of the health care providers charges for treatment rendered to the employer's injured worker. The decision gives the medical providers their day in court.
Reid Steinfeld, Esq., Grant & Weber, Calabasas, California, and his staff have led the way in the fight for medical provider rights and educating those in the California workers' compensation system about the injustice of "silent PPOs". They have been successful at both the trial level and appeals panel level in convincing various courts that, with respect to the PPO issue, the court has jurisdiction to hear fee schedule disputes. Mr. Steinfeld has also spoken to various groups and co-led a webinar about the silent PPO issue. To listen to his podcast, click here.
The Public Servants
Anne Searcy, M.D. is the highly regarded former medical director of the California Division of Workers' Compensation Medical Unit. From March 2006 to November 2008, Dr. Searcy managed all the Division's medical and health-related programs, including the qualified medical evaluator, medical provider network, independent medical review, utilization review, health care organization, and spinal surgery second opinion programs. Her accomplishments were many, including her work on medical treatment guidelines. To be sure, her work (and that of others) provided the real backbone of the Division. Dr. Searcy has since left her position at the Division and is now Senior Vice President and Assistant Chief Medical Officer with Zenith Insurance Company. She will be greatly missed at the Division.
The California Division of Workers' Compensation has the formidable task of transitioning into a paperless agency with EAMS, an electronic adjudication management system, while balancing the concerns of judges, stakeholders, agency staff, lawmakers, etc. To be sure, EAMS has hit some major bumps along the way, and it has not been without controversy or its critics, but the Division of Workers' Compensation showed its resoluteness in 2008, what with Associate Chief Judge Joel Harter and all the judges, administrators, and hardworking support staff, stepping up to roll out EAMS after Court Administrator Keven Star was called to active military duty.
Richard Robilotti, District Director of the OWCP in New York (District 2), is responsible for virtually all initial filings under the defense base act program, at least those which arise under the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thereafter, he and his staff administer all claims involving foreign workers as well as those of Americans who reside within District 2. He works tirelessly at a time when most government officials are retired.
Bob Whitmore, the former chief of the OSHA record-keeping division since 1988, has been an outspoken critic of OSHA's Injury and Illness Recordkeeping since 1985. In June 2008 he testified as a private citizen before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor on the underreporting of workplace injuries and illnesses, stating that current injury and illness information is inaccurate due in part to wide scale underreporting by employers and OSHA's willingness to accept these falsified numbers because it made it seem as if OSHA was fulfilling its mission. Mr. Whitmore was also involved with the Charlotte Observer's investigative series "The Cruelest Cuts" that was published in February 2008 and that uncovered horrendous working conditions and fraudulent records at Raeford Farms, one of the nation's largest poultry producers.