Monday, December 7, 2015

Mastagni Holstedt attorney Jeffrey Edwards presenting on LGBT Issues in the Workplace

Mastagni Holstedt attorney Jeffrey R. A. Edwards is presenting on LGBT Issues in the Workplace on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at Noon at the Dante Club, 2330 Fair Oaks Blvd, Sacramento.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Workers' Compensation Destination

For over 40 years the law firm of Mastagni Holstedt, APC has been the destination to resolve Workers’ Compensation claims in California.

Being one of the largest law firms in California with over 45 attorneys firm wide, including 15 Workers’ Compensation attorneys and over 10 support staff members within the department, Mastagni Holstedt, APC is ready to answer your tough questions and resolve your claim in a timely and professional manner.

With locations throughout California and our central location in the Capital City of Sacramento, Mastagni Holstedt, APC is known for answering legal questions from individuals around the state.

This firm represents the rights of citizens in any profession, such as Police Officers, Firefighters, public employees, and private sector employees. This family owned and run business handles a wide range of different Workers’ Compensation injuries. Dealing with an injury and resolving any claim on your own can be a daunting task, having Mastagni Holstedt, APC on your side can make the process less stressful and you will not feel overwhelmed in the complicated legal system. 

To answer any of your Workers’ Compensation questions, contact Mastagni Holstedt APC throughout the state 27/4 Toll Free Line 800-852-7581 

In Northern California, Monday through Friday 8AM-5PM at 916-446-4692
Fax: 916-447-4614.
1912 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95811.

In Southern California Monday through Friday 8AM-5PM at 909-476-3560.
3400 Inland Empire Blvd, #101
Ontario, CA 91764

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Supreme Court Rules Regular Sworn Peace Officers Are Not Entitled to Same Disability Benefits as Volunteer Peace Officers

Sworn peace officers who are regular employees of a law enforcement agency are not entitled to the same disability benefits as volunteer peace officers, according to the Supreme Court’s latest decision.

On October 26th, the California Supreme Court decided the case of Larkin v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. The Supreme Court ruled that Labor Code section 4458.2 does not apply to sworn peace officers who are regular, salaried employees of a law enforcement agency.

Under Labor Code section 4458.2 an officer’s temporary disability (or “TD”) benefit is set at the maximum statutory rate instead of being based on what they were actually earning. This means that if an officer was serving as a volunteer or reserve officer when they were injured on duty, they would receive TD benefits as if they were full-time employees of the agency. And the officer would receive TD benefits at the highest possible rate even if they were actually paid less while they were working.

This makes a huge difference in the amount an officer is paid for an on-the-job injury. Normally, an employee’s TD benefit payment is only two-thirds (2/3) of their regular salary. But under Section 4458.2 an officer would receive the maximum statutory rate of TD, as if they were among the highest paid employees.

To put this in real terms, in 2008 Police Officer John Larkin was seriously injured in a vehicle accident while on duty. His average weekly salary at that time was around $1000. The City of Marysville said it would only pay Larkin TD at two-thirds of his salary, meaning around $670 per week. But if Section 4458.2 was applied and Larkin was paid TD at the maximum statutory rate, he would receive over $900 per week in TD benefits. That is a difference of more than $10,000 over a year.

Officer Larkin filed a claim for TD benefits under Section 4458.2. But the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board ruled for the City of Marysville and denied his claim. The Court of Appeal then ruled against his appeal. With attorneys Brian Dixon and Gregory Gomez from the Law Offices of Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. representing him, he took his case all the way to the California Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court sided with the City of Marysville and ruled that Section 4458.2 did not apply to Officer Larkin. The Court largely deferred to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, although it did offer some of its own reasons for the ruling.

The Supreme Court’s main justification was that Section 4458.2 was originally written to provide disability coverage to volunteer peace officers. Officer Larkin’s attorneys pointed out that the word “volunteer” was removed from the law in 1989 and is not in the other law it references (Labor Code section 3362). But the Court said that when the State Legislature made these amendments it did not mean to broaden the law to apply to all peace officers. To back this up the Court pointed to certain historical legislative documents and ignored others that did not support its ruling.

Another reason the Supreme Court gave was that regular peace officer employees are covered under Labor Code sections 4850 and 4853. These laws allow an injured officer to take up to one year of full-paid leave and then up to one year of TD benefits at the normal two-thirds rate. The Court argued that it was “balancing” the interests of regular and volunteer peace officers by denying regular officers Section 4458.2 benefits.

The Court ignored the reality facing many peace officers in smaller cities and rural counties. Officers like Larkin choose to serve in dangerous positions for less pay than their colleagues in wealthier cities and counties. They should not be punished when they suffer an on-the-job injury. But now, not only will officers like Larkin get less in TD benefits than many regular peace officers. They cannot even get the same TD benefits that volunteer peace officers receive. This ruling affects the rights of more than 73,000 police and sheriff patrol officers across the state. (Employment Development Department, Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers in California.)

On behalf of the thousands of peace officers hurt by this inequity, Mastagni Holstedt, A.P.C. hopes the Legislature immediately fixes the law and overturns the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Governor Vetoes Expansion of Medical Leave

On Sunday, October 11, the Governor vetoed SB 406, which would have expanded the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). SB 406 would have allowed an employee to use CFRA leave to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law with a serious health condition. The current law does not include these family members. SB 406 would also allow parents working for the same employer to each take 12 weeks of leave for the birth of a child. The CFRA only allows parents to take a combined 12 week leave.

The Governor's veto message stated that he was open to allowing workers to take leave for additional family members. The bill failed, however, because it could require employers to provide up to 24 weeks on family leave in a 12 month period. Had SB 406 limited the leave period to a total of 12 weeks under both the CFRA and FMLA, it is likely it would have passed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Anti-SLAPP Motions: A Hurdle for Some Plaintiffs

Workers suing a public employer must know about a possible hurdle: Anti-SLAPP motions. In Park v. Board of Trustees of California University (2015) (Park), a California appeals court used an “anti-SLAPP” law in favor of a public employer. SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” SLAPPs are used to scare and silence critics.

California has made “anti-SLAPP” laws that allow a defendant stop a SLAPP suit dead in its tracks if (1) the suit was based on free speech about a public issue or made during official proceedings authorized by law, and (2) the plaintiff cannot prove that it would likely win. Thus, an “anti-SLAPP motion” saves a defendant from the expenses of a long lawsuit. In a sense, one can think of a SLAPP defendant as the “David” to plaintiff’s “Goliath.” But what happens when the roles are reversed? What happens when Goliath “anti-SLAPPs” David?

In Park, a teacher sued the California State University system for discrimination. In response, CSU “anti-SLAPPed” Park, saying that Park’s lawsuit came from protected speech made during its tenure review process. The Court of Appeal agreed and found that that all of Park’s claims were based on “protected speech activity” made during legally authorized personnel procedures for public workers.

Park illustrates where an anti-SLAPP motion is used to disrupt a plaintiff’s suit against a public employer. Thus, where a public worker’s suit might implicate protected public speech, the worker must carefully craft their legal argument and brace against a potential anti-SLAPP motion.

Friday, August 28, 2015

California Supreme Court Grants Review of Mastagni Holstedt, APC Workers Compensation Case

The California Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments on one of Mastagni Holstedt, APC's workers compensation cases. At issue in the case is whether a permanent peace officer is entitled to the maximum temporary disability benefit as a result of an on the job injury.

Officer John Larkin was injured in a motor vehicle accident in November of 2008 while employed as an active police officer with the City of Marysville. He received benefits under Labor code section 4850 which expired. He then received temporary disability benefits. The temporary disability benefits are paid at two thirds the weekly earning rate. Officer Larkin's weekly earnings were $1008 resulting in a $671 weekly temporary disability benefits rate.

However, Labor Code section 4458.2 states temporary disability benefits are paid at the maximum statutory rate for eligible peace officers. The maximum rate in 2008, the time of the case, was $916 per week. Labor Code section 4458.2 makes reference to Labor Code section 3362 which defines who is eligible for the maximum benefit. Labor Code section 3362 states that every person registered as an active police officer shall be considered an employee of the municipality he or she works for.

Labor Code section 3362 has evolved over time. Originally the language included only men and specified the peace officer had to be a volunteer to receive the maximum benefit. However, the California State Legislature in 1989 modernized the statute including both genders and removing the word "volunteer." This evidences the intent of the legislature to provide maximum benefits to all peace officers.

Officer Larkin challenged the lower compensation rate in front of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. He argued he was entitled to the full $916 per week rather than the $671 per week. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board argued that since Labor Code section 3362 only applied to volunteer peace officers, Officer Larkin was not entitled to the maximum temporary disability benefit. On appeal, the California Court of Appeal for the Third District upheld the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board determination.

Mastagni Holstedt, APC appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court. In its briefs, the firm argues all officers, regardless of status, are entitled to maximum benefits. This is the clear language of the statute which must be followed by the court system. By reading extra terms into the statute, the Court of Appeal created an absurd result which harms peace officers across the state.

Oral argument for the case will be held on September 2, 2015 at 9 AM in San Francisco. The case will be argued by Mastagni Holstedt, APC attorney Brian A. Dixon. Mastagni Holstedt, APC attorney Gregory G. Gomez assisted in drafting the briefing materials for the case.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Court of Appeal Gives Retroactive Effect to Firefighter Injury Presumption

The California Court of Appeal ruled statutory changes to workers' compensation injury presumptions apply to cases pending prior to the change in the statute. In doing so, the Court of Appeal overruled the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board ("WCAB") who refused to apply the presumption to a pending case. This decision could affect the presumptions involved in many workers compensation cases.

The facts of Lozano v. W.C.A.B. are tragic. William Lozano worked as a firefighter for a Department of Defense installation. Lozano was diagnosed with stomach cancer and succumbed to the disease in September of 2007. In November of 2009, Lozano's wife and two young children filed a workers compensation claim alleging the stomach cancer was work related.

On January 1, 2009 the legislature amended the Labor Code so that firefighters like Lozano could take advantage of the cancer presumption. This means the family would not need to prove Lozano's employment caused stomach cancer. Rather, the court would assume the cancer was from his employment and the employer would have to prove the cancer was not job related.

The Agreed Medical Examiner ("AME") concluded Lozano was exposed to carcinogens as part of his work activities. However, he could not conclusively say the carcinogens caused Lozano's cancer. However, if the firefighter cancer presumption applied to Lozano's case, the AME concluded the cancer should be presumed as work related.

The WCAB determined the presumption did not apply to Lozano's case. The WCAB noted Lozano was not a qualifying firefighter under the statute at the time of his death. The WCAB refused to apply the statutory change retroactively because the Legislature did not provide for retroactive application in the statute.

The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the WCAB's decision and held the presumption did apply to Lozano's claim. In general new statutes operate prospectively unless the Legislature clearly indicates otherwise. However, this general rule does not apply to new statutes that simply alter procedural or evidentiary statutes to trials occurring after enactment. Thus, if a new statute alters substantive legal rights, like who is liable for an injury, that statute cannot be applied retroactively. But, if the statute only alters procedural rights, like who has the burden of proof, the statute can be applied retroactively.

Here, the presumption test does not change who is liable for the injury, but rather who has the burden of producing evidence. Making the cancer presumption available to firefighters like Lozano only addresses the procedure to follow, not the substantive legal rights. Thus, the Court of Appeal overruled the WCAB and allowed Lozano's heirs to retroactively apply the cancer presumption.

This case should help a great number of public safety employees in the future. The instant statute only dealt with firefighters working at Department of Defense facilities. But the court's logic could be applied to any new statute which changes the evidentiary burdens for workers compensation claims. Thus, when the legislature changes the statute to help more people, any pending claims can take advantage of that new rule.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sacramento Business Journal Interviews David P. Mastagni

The Sacramento Business Journal interviewed leaders from the top Sacramento firms to discuss what litigators see as challenges in the profession.  The article noted:

According to Mastagni Holstedt managing partner David Mastagni, the biggest challenge facing litigators is "Staying on game (from) one litigation setting to another without breaks while being able to shift from one set of facts and laws to another amidst being able to change forums and jurisdictions."

The Journal recently listed Mastagni Holstedt as the top litigation firm.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mastagni Holstedt Ranked #1 Litigation Firm by Sacramento Business Journal

The Sacramento Business Journal ranked Mastagni Holstedt the #1 litigation law firm.  The list ranks the top twenty-five law firms in Sacramento metro by number of litigators.

According to Mastagni Holstedt Founder, David P. Mastagni, "We are very pleased to have the growth and success of our litigation practices recognized in this way.  As the firm grows in Southern California, it is important to us to remain the leader in Sacramento litigating on behalf of employees, public safety labor associations, and individual plaintiffs, as well as class and mass actions."