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Annette Valdez, who claimed to be an injured worker, was a 34 year old a meter mechanic on the last day of her alleged Cumulative Trauma (CT) period, when she claimed injury to her psyche due to alleged harassment while working for the Southern California Gas Company.While she was represented by an attorney, she settled her claim via Compromise & Release for $2,500, which was approved on 2/28/02.

Much later she claimed that that she was incompetent at the time she signed the C&R on 1/11/02 settling this particular case. the matter proceeded to trial on 2/28/22, on the sole issue of whether the Order Approving Comprise & Release (OAC&R) dated 2/28/02 should be set aside.

She testified that she was not in her right mind at the time she signed the C&R in 2002. She was not taking the right medications. She is currently taking Haldol. Beforehand, however, she took something else which put her to sleep. Now that she is taking Haldol, she is better. At the time of the C&R, she was paranoid and schizophrenic and she was fearful of pursuing her case because her coworkers might get mad and they knew where she lived. She said she went to court one time and asked how she could reopen her case and was told that she would have to show how she was incompetent at the time she signed the C&R. It is unknown when exactly this occurred or who told the Applicant this.

She offered four exhibits at trial, none of which were medical evidence supporting her claim of incompetency at the time she signed the settlement agreement.

Findings and Order issued by a WCJ on May 10, 2022 which found that that there was no good cause to set aside the February 28, 2002 Order Approving Compromise & Release. Her Petition for Reconsideration was denied in the panel decision of Valdez v Southern California Gas Company -ADJ1991445 (January 2024).

Case law has defined incompetence as “not insanity, but rather inability to properly manage or take care of oneself or property without assistance.” County of Santa Clara v. WCAB (McMonagle) (1992) 57 CCC 377, 379 (writ denied). It has been held that the term does not apply to physical inability but rather to mental incompetence. … Fox v. IAC (1943) 8 CCC 194, 195 (writ denied).

Medical evidence is required to establish incompetence. Sun Indemnity Co. of New York v. IAC (McKinney) (1948) 13 CCC 82, 85; Lamin v. City of Los Angeles Police Department (2004) 69 CCC 1002, 1005. The statute of limitations will be tolled if the court finds sufficient psychological impairment such that the injured worker is incapable, or substantially compromised. County of San Bernardino v. WCAB (Spencer) (1996) 61 CCC 860 (writ denied); Feeley v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (1991) 234 Cal App.3d 949. Any such decision must be based on substantial evidence.

The Applicant’s settlement was based on two QME reports, one obtained by Applicant, which was Dr. Perry Maloff, dated 2/19/98 and one by Defendant, Dr. Carl Marusak, dated 12/18/9. Both reports found the Applicant’s psyche claim to be non-industrial. Neither of these reports specifically stated that Applicant was incompetent or incapable of handling her affairs, although they do discuss significant psychological issues.

“Here, after careful consideration of the record, we agree with the WCJ that applicant did not meet her burden to show that she was incompetent at the time that she signed the C&R. Additionally, we agree with the WCJ, that on the record before us, there is no evidence that the agreement was based on fraud.”