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The CWCI COVID-19 tracking tool (see story below) reports a stunning 14,470 California workers’ compensation claims filed so far this year. Some estimates show that the State will have twice that number in a few short months.

The Floyd Skeren Manukian Langevin, LLP – workers’ compensation and employment law firm – was asked about how the firm is responding to the pandemic and these claims from the employer’s point of view.

Partner Amanda Manukian pointed out the importance of her firm remaining fully operational during the pandemic shutdown. A few months ago, officials arrived at the office building in Pasadena where her branch office is located, and ordered the entire building to be closed within two hours.

Fortunately, she reported that as one of the tenants of the building, she easily complied with this time constraint, and her office was fully functional at home by the next day. Prior to the pandemic Floyd Skeren had installed advanced case management technology across all offices statewide. The technology, along with gigabit fiber internet connections between offices supported a seamless transition for the entire firm to stay-at-home work when required.

All of the firm’s staff and attorneys have been fully functional and productive, with essentially no disruption of work flow.

Bernadette O’brien, the firms employment law partner, has held webinars for the firms employment law clients every few weeks. She says that new COVID-19 regulations, both state and federal, are rapidly evolving day by day in response to pandemic. The webinar is updated regularly. and virtually provided for several hundred employers who attend this program for up-to-the-minute compliance guidance.

John Floyd, the firms founding partner, has organized a COVID-19 workers’ compensation defense team within his firm. All COVID-19 claims will be handled only by members of this team.

Mr. Floyd has several physicians doing forensic research for his team, identifying and obtaining the medical studies published every few days about the disease. The studies are reviewed, cataloged and circulated to his team.

This science is evolving, and will be used as a standard to review the medical evidence in these claims. The catalog of studies include many topics, such as the effectiveness of various protective gear, the incubation window between symptoms and infection to help identify the best time frame for the infection to have occurred, and other risk factors other than work for purposes of apportionment.

The COVID team has also done considerable legal research on the validity of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-62-20 which created a temporary presumption of industrial causation for some of the workers’ who file COVID-19 claims. The team is now filing briefs in COVID claims across the state, requesting a finding that N-62-20 is unlawful, and invalid as it exceeds the Governor’s authority under the California Emergency Services Act.

The brief then argues in the alternative, that if N-620-20 is found to be a valid exercise of emergency authority, then the costs of the presumption claims should be paid by the State of California, as it would constitute a “taking” for which the California Emergency Services Act requires compensation to be paid by the State to the employer for these claims.

Mr. Floyd concluded by saying that if anyone is interested in more details about how the COVID-19 defense team is responding to these claims, they may contact him by phone or email.