Limin Gao filed an Application for Adjudication, alleging a psyche injury while employed by Chevron from May 2, 2014 to July 2, 2015.
The matter proceeded to trial on March 10, 2020. Gao provided in-person testimony, both direct and on cross-examination, flying in from her current residence in Ontario, Canada in order to do so.
Because the trial could not be completed in one session, the trial was continued to June 9, 2020, with in-person testimony contemplated from several defense witnesses.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, WCAB District Offices stopped conducting in-person trials as of March 16, 2020. Beginning May 4, 2020, WCAB District Offices began to hear trials on the case-in-chief remotely, via phone link.
On May 7, 2020, the State of California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, issued Executive Order N-63-20 which essentially suspended the requirement that a witness testify in person under certain conditions and circumstances.
As the June 9, 20201 trial date approached, the parties made clear they had very different ideas about how the case should proceed. Applicant favored proceeding via remote testimony, while defendant objected, requesting a continuance until in-person testimony could be elicited from its three rebuttal witnesses.
The WCJ issued the Order Continuing September 1, 2020 Trial, stating that due process required continuing the trial to allow for in-person testimony from defendant’s witnesses, because applicant had previously given in-person testimony. Limin Gao Petitioned for Removal to have the WCAB rule on the legality of the WCJ order continuing the hearing. The panel reversed and remanded in the significant panel decision of Limin Gao v Chevron Corporation.
The WCAB ruled that “each case must be resolved according to its own particular circumstances, and it would therefore be inappropriate to institute a blanket rule that it is per se unreasonable to continue a case to allow for in-person testimony.”
“However, in consideration of Executive Order N-63-20, the purposes of the workers’ compensation system, and current conditions, the default position should be that trials proceed remotely, in the absence of some clear reason why the facts of a specific case require a continuance. Moreover, as the party seeking the continuance, the burden should be on defendant in this case to demonstrate why a continuance is required.”