Greetings from the President

By Sheral C. Kellar, President
National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary
Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Judge – Chief
Louisiana Workforce Commission


Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the 2024 College of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary draw near and give their attention for the College is sitting in Orlando, FL on August 19, 20 and 21, 2024.

The 2024 College was planned with new and veteran workers’ compensation judges in mind.  On Day 1, the college offers courses including legal writing, evidence, and comparative law.  That is all before lunch.  After lunch, we have presentations entitled: From Advocate to Adjudicator, Judging in the Moment, and Practical Considerations for Video Hearings.

You know that old adage, “you’re never too old to learn.”  This certainly applies to legal writing.  There exist many new and diverse ways to make our decisions well-reasoned and self-briefing.  We are open to learning those ways including how AI tools like ChatGPT can assist with composing decisions.  Meeting and responding to evidentiary objections is always a challenge.  In the evidence session, we discuss the possibility of drafting a set of model rules designed specifically for workers’ compensation adjudication.  We offer thoughts on what these rules might look like as well as next steps for such a project.  The Comparative Law panel is always enlightening.  It highlights how each state handles similar issues differently, yet we are never very far apart.

The post lunch offerings are primarily designed for new adjudicators.  But remember, “You’re never too old to learn.”  Join this panel for a lively and interactive discussion of the challenges new judges face and learn to successfully transition from advocate to adjudicator.  New judges will view scripted videos of mock hearings with various vignettes commonly seen in worker’s compensation disputes.  A veteran panel of workers’ compensation judges will then lead a discussion with the new judges to discuss ways to address the issues presented. And finally the first day of the college ends with practical advice for handling virtual hearings in a post-COVID environment.

The 2nd day of the college begins with a much-anticipated three-judge panel presentation on “Self-Represented Litigants:  Access to Justice.  The three-judge panel with members from Louisiana, Virginia, and California will discuss access to justice issues affecting self-represented litigants. Next, Judge Wes Marshall of Virginia will dissect interesting and unusual workers’ compensation cases from around the country.  This is always a hit at the college.  He talks about bizarre, hilarious, and pivotal workers’ compensation cases.  Afterwards, another three-judge panel follows with judges from Virginia, Florida, and Rhode Island.  This is our Ethics course.  Here we discuss origins of judicial governance in different jurisdictions and their application to different hypothetical situations.  Come one, come all and get your Ethics CLE.  The last two presentations on Tuesday, August 20, 2024, are “Employee Leasing Agreements:  General and Special Employers-Peeling the Onion” and “Limited Scope Representation”, respectively.

With the advent of violence in the courtroom, we begin Day 3 with a discussion of courtroom management and security. Did you know that not all workers’ compensation courts have bailiffs?  How do we protect ourselves and the public we serve?  Did you know that not all workers’ compensation courts provide for interpreters at hearings and trials?  What are we to do for those limited English-speaking litigants?  Is it an access to justice issue to provide interpreters?  Should the state pay for the interpreter or is it the litigant’s responsibility?  We will answer all your questions.  And, last but not least, how do we take care of ourselves in the fast-paced, stressful environment of adjudicating workers’ compensation disputes?  On an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your mask on first, and then place the mask on others.  In other words, you cannot take care of others until you take care of yourself, first.  How do we do that?

By the very nature of a judge’s work, it is often difficult for others to detect that a mental health problem is brewing. Judges work in isolation and mental health problems are shielded from view by peers and the practitioners who appear before them. Judges may perceive that admitting or addressing a problem may adversely affect their political and professional reputation.  Delay, defer and denial tactics are ineffective against progressive diseases such as alcoholism, addiction, or depression. How do we help each other and ourselves?  “Mindfulness” will give us tools to use to prevent irreparable damage to a career on the bench.

If you have not attended the College of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judges, I personally invite you to attend.  It is part of the Workers’ Compensation Institute Annual Conference held in Orlando, FL every August.  There you will find more than 8,000 professionals walking and talking nothing but workers’ compensation.  There is nothing like it. See you in Orlando!


By Wilbur W. Anderson
Vol. 93, No. 6   November/December 2019 Pg 44
Workers’ Compensation


Once upon a time, workers’ compensation pleading was informal. Even a letter from an injured worker’s wife asking the state treasurer whether her husband had a valid claim counted as a claim.[1] Good luck trying that today! For better or worse, things are more complicated now.

For starters, there are the familiar specificity requirements for petitions for benefits in F.S. 440.192(2). Then there’s the requirement in Florida Administrative Code Rule 60Q- 6.ll3(2)(h) that the misrepresentation defense “and any affirmative defense,” must be raised with specificity in the pretrial stipulation. That rule also says, “Any objections/responses to the affirmative defenses must be pled with specificity.”

But what is an affirmative defense in workers’ compensation? Moreover, what are the objections and responses to them that the rule requires be pled with specificity?  Workers’ compensation judges and lawyers, many of whom aren’t experienced in the intricacies of civil pleading, now have to carefully consider these questions.

What’s an Affirmative Defense?

Let’s start with the Black’s Law Dictionary definition of “affirmative defense”: “A defendant’s assertion of facts and arguments that, if true, will defeat the plaintiff’s or prosecution’s claim, even if all the allegations in the complaint are true.” This definition also cross references the definition of “confession and avoidance”: “A plea in which a defendant admits allegations but pleads additional facts that deprive the admitted facts of an adverse legal effect.” To analogize to civil practice, if we think of the employee as the plaintiff and the employer/carrier as the defendant, an affirmative defense is an assertion by an employer/carrier in response to a claim that says, even if you’re otherwise entitled to the benefit, we don’t have to provide it because of something else. The “something else” defeats the claim. But what?

The Rules

Rule 6.113(2)(h) doesn’t contain a list of affirmative defenses. It just says that affirmative defenses, and any objections or responses to them, must be raised with specificity.  Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.110(d), in contrast’, contains a nonexclusive list of affirmative defenses:

In pleading to a preceding pleading a party shall set forth affirmatively accord and satisfaction, arbitration and award, assumption of risk, contributory negligence, discharge in bankruptcy, duress, estoppe/, failure of consideration, fraud, illegality, injury by fellow servant, /aches, license, payment, release, resjudicata, statute of frauds, statute of limitations, waiver, and any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.

Some of the affirmative defenses listed in the civil rule have no relevance to workers’ compensation litigation – assumption of the risk and contributory negligence, for example. But accord and satisfaction, estoppel, fraud, payment, release, res judicata, statute of limitations, and waiver are all familiar to the workers’ compensation practitioner and are likely to be considered as affirmative defenses under Rule 6.113(2)(h). In fact, the First District Court of Appeal has already characterized many of them, and other defenses specific to workers’ compensation, as affirmative defenses. Here’s the list of cases with corresponding case citations:

  1. Misrepresentation: City of Hialeah Bono, 207 So. 3d 1030, 1031 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017).
  2. Intoxication: Paradise Neptune Fish Mkt./Retail First Ins. Co., 238 So. 3d 901,902 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018).
  3. Willful intention of the employee to injure or kill himself, herself, or another: Bay Auto v. Allaire, 593 So. 2d 589, 591 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992).
  4. Waiver: Teco Energy, Inc. Williams, 234 So. 3d 816, 823 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017).
  5. Estoppel: Teco Energy, v. Williams, 234 So. 3d 816, 823 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017).
  6. Refusal to use a safety device or observe a safety rule: McKenzie Tank Lines, Inc. v. McCauley, 418 So. 2d 1177, 1180 (Fla. 1st DCA  1982).
  7. Refusal of suitable employment/voluntary limitation of income/deemed earnings: Wyeth/Pharma Field Sales Toscano, 40 So. 3d 795, 801 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010): Hyatt Regency Westshore v. Robinson, 629 So. 2d 1088, 1089 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994).
  8. Lack of coverage: Aetna & Sur. Co. v. Houghton, 632 So. 2d 103, 103 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994).
  9. Misconduct: Cory Fairbanks Mazda Minor, 192 So. 3d 596,598 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).
  10. Apportionment: Giaimo Florida Autosport, Inc., 154 So. 3d 385,387 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014).
  11. Statute of limitations: Palmer v. McKesson Corp., 7 So. 3d 561,563 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).
  12. Retention of substantial earning capacity despite catastrophic injury: Home Depot v. Turner, 820 So. 2d 1075, 1075 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002).
  13. Acquiescence to authorization of another provider as the one-time change of physician: McFarlane Miami-Dade Transit Auth., 215 So. 3d 658, 660 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017).
  14. Accord and satisfaction, release, waiver, and equitable estoppel:  Hack Drywall, 46 So. 3d 1137, 1138 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010).
  15. Laches: Zaldivar Okeelanta Corp., 877 So. 2d 927, 931 (Fla. 1st DCA  2004).
  16. Knowing refusal to use a safety appliance or observe a safety rule: McKenzie Tank Lines, v. McCauley, 418 So. 2d 1177, 1180 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982).

What’s an Avoidance?

 Broadly speaking, any affirmative defense is an avoidance .and vice versa. More commonly, the term is used to refer to an affirmative defense to a defense. [2] Rule l.llO(d) specifically requires that avoidances be asserted in the pleadings. Rule 6.113(2)(h) doesn’t use the word “avoidance,” but it does say any affirmative defense must be raised with specificity, and that any objections or responses to the affirmative defenses must be pied with specificity. It’s reasonable to conclude the objections or responses required by the rule refer to avoidances.

The best example of an avoidance in workers’ compensation litigation is a claimant’s assertion of waiver under the 120-day rule. Relying in part on Rule 6.113(2)(h), caselaw holds this “is an affirmative pleading which must be timely raised and specifically plead.”[3] But don’t assume the 120-day rule is the only avoidance a claimant has to plead with specificity. Any affirmative defense to a defense must be asserted with specificity in the pretrial stipulation.

Some Things May Look Like Affirmative Defenses, But They’re Not

Statutory jurisdictional requirements aren’t affirmative defenses.  Even though the statute of limitations in §440.19 is an affirmative defense, and the assertion that the statute of limitations has been tolled is an avoidance, [4] the two-year limitation period for modification of an order in F.S. §440.28, isn’t an affirmative defense but an absolute jurisdictional requirement.[5] That means it’s not subject to the pleading requirements of Rule 6.ll3(2)(h).

Don’t Confuse Elements of a Claim with Affirmative Defenses

Claimants are required to prove each and every element of a claim [6] If something is an element of the claim, the absence of proof supporting it doesn’t have to be asserted as an affirmative defense under Rule 6.ll3(2)(h). For example, in 1994, the legislature added language to F.S. §440.09(1): “The injury, its occupational cause, and any resulting manifestations or disability shall be established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty and by objective medical findings.” In Pyram v. Marriott Intern., 687 So. 2d 351, 351 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997), the court held this language didn’t establish an affirmative defense that had to be asserted by the employer/carrier. Instead, the court held it established a new standard of proof that all claimants must meet. Because the claimant didn’t present any evidence of objective medical findings, the court held the claim was properly denied even though the lack of objective medical findings wasn’t asserted as a defense by the employer/carrier before the final hearing.

What About Major Contributing Cause?

Whether major contributing cause is an element of a claim, or an affirmative defense is tricky. In Pyram, the court declined to address this question, saying in a footnote that the issue of whether §§440.09(l)(a) and (b) (Supp.1994) established affirmative defenses wasn’t before them. Later cases have made it clear, however, that major contributing cause, in the sense of a break in the chain of causation linking the compensable injury to the requested benefit, is an affirmative defense once compensability of an injury has been established. [7] However, in cases in which the major contributing cause standard applies to the initial determination of compensability of an injury, it’s part of a claimant’s initial burden of proof. [8]

Just because a defense isn’t an affirmative defense doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be asserted in the pretrial stipulation. Parties are entitled to notice of what’s to be litigated. The specificity requirements in Rule 6.ll3(2)(h) only apply to affirmative defenses and objections or responses to them. But don’t forget that Rule 6.113(2)(a) requires that all defenses, not just affirmative defenses, be raised in the pretrial stipulation.  For example, in Knight v. Walgreens, 109 So. 3d 1224 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), the JCC denied benefits based on the claimant’s failure to prove major contributing cause and medical necessity. The court reversed because these issues weren’t raised as defenses in the pretrial stipulation. Claimants don’t have to present evidence as to those elements of a claim that the employer/carrier hasn’t clearly stated on the pretrial stipulation are in dispute.

The Problem of Specificity

Rule 6.113(2)(h) requires affirmative defenses to be specific, “detailing the conduct giving rise to the defense, with leave to amend within 10 days.” It also says, “Failure to plead with specificity shall result in the striking of the defense.” But no procedure for resolving disputes over specificity is set out in the rule, and this has spawned some troublesome practices.

It’s all too common to see “nonspecific” or “vague” written on the pretrial stipulation in response to affirmative defenses and avoidances. It’s also not uncommon for parties to file notices objecting to affirmative defenses and avoidances as nonspecific. These practices are problematic because they don’t give the JCC an opportunity to rule on the question of whether the affirmative defense or avoidance satisfies the specificity requirements of Rule 6·.113(2)(h) before the final hearing. By that time, if the JCC determines the defense is nonspecific, the JCC is in the awkward position of striking the defense and continuing the final hearing to permit the additional 10 days for amending the pretrial required by Rule 6.113(2)(h) or striking the defense and proceeding without permitting amendment.

A Practical Suggestion

Lack of specificity in pleadings has long been addressed in civil litigation by a motion for more definite statement under Fla. R. Civ. P. l.14 0 (e) [9] l The rule says:

Motion for More Definite Statement. If a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, that party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading. The motion must point out the defects complained of and the details desired. If the motion is granted and the order of the court is not obeyed within 70 days after the filing of the order or such other time as the court may fix, the court may strike the pleading to which the motion was directed or make such order as it deems just.

Because a pretrial stipulation is defined as a pleading under F.A.C.R 60Q-6.102(11), filing this type of motion in a workers’ compensation case as soon as vague affirmative defenses are stated in a pretric1I stipulation is probably the best way to address affirmative defenses that a party believes aren’t specific enough. It has the advantage of bringing the issue to the attention of the JCC and the opposing party and allowing the opposing party 10 days to fix it after the JCC has ruled on the motion, consistent with Rule 6.113(2)(h).


Claimants and employer/carriers must raise affirmative defenses and avoidances with specificity in the pretrial stipulation. Now more than ever, workers’ compensation judges and lawyers should be mindful of the rules of procedure dealing with these pleading requirements and the applicable caselaw.

[1] Turner v. Keller Kitchen Cabinets, S., Inc., 247 So. 2d 35 (Fla. 1971).
[2] Moore Meats, Inc. v. Strawn In & For Seminole County, 313 So. 2d 660, 661 (Fla. 1975).  Reno v. Adventist Health Sys./Sunbelt, Inc., 516 So. 2d 63, 64 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987).
[3] Teco Energy, Inc. v. Williams, 234 So. 3d 816, 823 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017).
[4]  Palmer v. McKesson Corp., 7 So. 3d 561,563 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009). The author was co­ counsel for the appellant  in this case.
[5]  Budget Luxury Inns, Inc. v. Boston, 407 So. 2d  997, 999  (Fla. 1st DCA 1981).
[6]  Fitzgerald v. Osceola County Sch. Bd., 974 So. 2d 1161, 1164 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008).
[7]  Meehan v. Orange County Data & Appraisals, So. 3d; 44 Fla. L. Weekly 0733 (Fla. 1st DCA Mar. 20, 2019).
[8] Mangold v. Rainforest Coif Sports Ctr., 675 So. 2d 639, 642 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996).
[9] See Manka v. DeFranco’s Inc., 575 So. 2d 1357, 1359 (Fla. 1st DCA 1991); Miller v. Bill Rivers Trailers, Inc., 450 So. 2d 334,335 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984); Wilson v. Clark, 414 So. 2d 526, 528 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982}.

Wilbur W. Anderson is a judge of compensation claims in Daytona Beach. He is past president of the Florida Conference of Judges of Compensation Claims and past chair of the Workers’ Compensation Rules Committee of The Florida Bar. Judge Anderson received his law degree from George Washington University and his undergraduate degree, with honors, from Florida State University.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and not those of the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims, the Division of Administrative Hearings, or the State of Florida.

This column is submitted on behalf of the Workers’ Compensation Section, Glen Wieland, chair, and Pam Foels, editor.

 Iii,  Workers’ Compensation

Older Column


Checklist for a Successful Virtual Mediation

By:  Hon. Suzette Carlisle Flowers, Ph.D.
Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation
St. Louis, Missouri




In 2018, I began research on mediations conducted with the use of distance technology as an alternative to in-person mediations.  A group of twelve judges were interviewed, and the overwhelming response was in-person mediations were the gold standard.  At that time, most judges did not have the technology to conduct mediations using distance technology, nor did they have a reason to do so.  In-person mediations worked fine.  The majority of people could appear in-person for mediations.  A few met by telephone.  If parties could not appear in-person, the case was rescheduled for another setting.

However, that changed in 2020, when the pandemic began. Most courts scrambled to develop a plan to manage dockets remotely.  Some courts continued to remain open, but many courts closed their doors to the public for a period of time. The Division of Workers’ Compensation in Missouri switched from an in-person format to a telephone docketing system, within one week of the doors closing in March 2020.   A hybrid of this system continues to this day.  Currently, the St. Louis Office is back in person for mediations and hearings.  Conferences with pro se employees are still handled by telephone.  Pre-hearing announcements are made by email, unless special arrangements are made.

Shortly after the pandemic began, the National Judicial College conducted a survey of judges and found that six out of 10 judges who responded did not feel equipped to handle the impact of COVID-19 on judicial proceedings (Firth, 2020).  In 2021, as part of my research toward a doctorate degree, I conducted a survey of judges across the country, ranging from administrative agencies to appellate courts.  By that time, judges reported a marked increase in their ability to use technology during mediations.

The survey asked judges “Did the need to use Distance Technology to Mediate during COVID-19 Outweigh the Potential Ethical Pitfalls Related to Its Use?”  More than 500 judges responded to the survey.  Seventy-nine percent of judges who responded to the question agreed that using distance technology to mediate during a pandemic outweighed any ethical risks associated with its use.  I submit to you that judges made ethical concessions with the use of technology during the pandemic in order to keep cases moving.  However, once they realized distance technology provided an effective alternative when parties could not meet in-person, the idea of virtual mediations grew in popularity.

What is Distance Technology?

By 2024, many people have used one or more of the distance technologies listed below.  They are known collectively as Distance Collaboration Modalities (“DCM’s”):

  • Video-Teleconferencing (“VTC”)
  • Electronic Meeting Systems (EMSs”)
  • Virtual Environments
  • Electronic Mail (E-mail)
  • Instant Messaging (“IM”)
  • Remote Document Sharing
  • Telephone Conferences

The Survey

The judges surveyed developed the following checklist of reminders to improve the success of mediations held using distance technology.  These techniques apply to other proceedings when distance technology is used, i.e. hearings and motions.  The following checklist may be shared with parties to remind them of tips for a successful virtual setting.  Also, included is a checklist for judges as they prepare for virtual settings.  Judges surveyed reported they will continue to use distance technology after COVID-19 was contained (122 judges to 14 who did not plan to use it – see chart below).  As we have returned to more “normal” in-person settings, this checklist will serve as a reminder of this new and invaluable tool in our toolbox, that we can use when and if the need arises.  All items may not apply to your court, and you may have other items that work for you.  This template is intended to be a guide to improve your chance for a successful mediation using distance technology.  The checklist below can be used for all types of settings when the parties do not appear in person. Perhaps you have other ideas you can add to this list.

State of _________
Division of Workers’ Compensation
Court Guidelines for Virtual Proceedings

John Doe, Claimant Injury Number – XX-XXXXXX
ABC Com[any, Employer Date of Injury – XX-XX-XXXX
Peace of Mind, Insurance Claimant’s Attorney –
Defense Attorney –
The following guidelines will ensure the success of the virtual mediation scheduled for the above case on ___________. Please direct questions/comments to the judge assigned to the
case. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Before the virtual setting:

1.  Expectations
a) Attendance: Everyone present must be identified for the record.
b) Order of Appearance:
Claimant, Defense, Judge.
c) Responsibility:
Complete mediation summary and provide to the judge and parties before mediation.
d) Physical appearance.: Appropriate for court. Sitting. No appearance from bed.
e) Decorum: Respectful, take turns.
f) Background: No inappropriate filters and background distractions.
g) No food.
h) No smoking.
i) Comfort: Water and coffee are acceptable.
j) Lighting: Avoid strong background light.
k) Coaching: Parties agree not to be coached in any way.
l) Hearings: Witnesses swear or affirm not to be coached in any way.
m) Consequences for failure to comply, i.e., termination of the proceeding, or removal of parties or witnesses from the virtual proceeding.

2.  Internet questions:

a) Court technology used: Webex.
b) Internet connection: Is the internet connection stable?
c) Bandwidth: What is each participant’s bandwidth?
d) Telephone: Is the telephone connection stable?
e) Headsets: recommended to reduce noise, if available.
f) Meeting ID/Password: Provide participants with options to join the meeting, i.e., telephone numbers, meeting links, meeting ID numbers, and passwords.
g) Help: Provide participants with contact information to report connection problems or request assistance.
h) Include a digital box account or encrypted email for parties to upload confidential documents or email documents to the judge who can share them with everyone.
i) Provide technical assistance or direct parties to it, if needed.
j) Offer parties a test run, or encourage them to do their own, if needed.
k) Include a digital box account or encrypted email for parties to upload confidential documents or arrange for parties to send documents to the judge   who can share them with everyone.
l) Provide or direct parties to technical assistance if needed.
m) Offer parties a test run, or encourage them to do their own, if needed.

 (Judges’ Use Only)
Court Guidelines for Virtual Proceedings

The Honorable Judge _________
Workers’ Compensation Court
Phone number
Email address
State of _________

At the start of the virtual setting:
a) Identify who is present. One person per virtual device, per camera, if used.  No sharing of devices.
b) Only the parties/witness are allowed to join, view, or participate in the virtual proceeding. Do not share the link to join the meeting.
c) Review basic computer functions; chat, raise hand, share a document, etc. with participants and solicit questions.
d) Remind parties that mediation discussions are confidential and cannot be used in any other proceeding. Protective orders may be issued, if needed.

 During the virtual setting:
a) No recording of the proceeding, except for court sanctioned proceedings.
b) Cameras are to remain on at all times, subject to a pan of the room, if requested by the Court at any time.
c) Cell phones, IPads, computers, and other devices not used for the proceeding are to remain off.
d) Participants are to remain visible at all times from the chest up during the proceeding, until they are excused by the Court.
e) Device volume is to remain up throughout the proceedings.
f) Only parties and attorneys are present unless a witness is testifying.
g) Participation in the proceeding is express agreement to the terms expressed by the Court.
h) Parties will be placed in breakout rooms as needed.
i) Judge will remain observant about the activities of participants.
j) Judge will solicit attorney support with observation of clients and witnesses to ensure compliance by all in attendance.
k) If it is not possible to meet virtually due to an unforeseen event, have a backup plan and ability to contact all parties involved.

After the virtual setting
a) The judge will continue to improve technological to improve the judicial services to the community.  Most judicial cannons require technical competence.


By Sheral C. Kellar, President
National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary
Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Judge – Chief
Louisiana Workforce Commission


In February 2024, a former patient attacked Louisiana dentist Katie Tran and two of her colleagues with a three-inch blade.   The patient stabbed Tran on the right side of her neck and in her left eye, which she is likely to lose because of the attack.[1] The arrest of the patient is a stark and chilling reminder that healthcare professionals are suffering more workplace violence than those in any other industry, including law enforcement.  “Healthcare professionals endured 73% of all non-fatal workplace injuries in 2018, the most recent year for which figures were available.”[2]

A 2021 Press Ganey Survey Report suggests that assaults against nurses occur every two (2) hours in an acute care setting because of their close proximity to patients.[3] Approximately one of four nurses is assaulted on the job according to The American Nurses Association.  Forty (40%) percent or more of these assaults go unreported. Michelle Mahon, a registered nurse and representative for the labor group National Nurses United opines that many nurses do not report violence because they have the perception that nothing will change. In Milwaukee, a nurse waited over a month to report that an irate patient who did not want to leave the emergency room had attacked her.  Joni says she was grabbed from behind as she walked down the hallway past the patient’s room.  It all happened in a matter of 45 seconds, she said. “The patient ended up grabbing me from behind by my hair.  I was punched in the back of the head several times, my fingers broken.”[4] It all ended when the patient kicked Joni in the jaw.  Now, Joni says, “… I have chronic pain in my left ear every time I chew something that’s crunchy.”  She also had quarter and nickel-sized chucks of hair missing after the attack.

Thirteen percent (13%) of workdays are missed because of violence against nurses.  Sonia, a registered nurse at Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital was medicating a patient in the emergency room when she felt excruciating pain.  She looked down to see the patient’s mouth on her forearm.  While she screamed for help, his teeth kept going deeper into her tissue.  Sonia suffered extensive injuries and will be out of work for at least 10 weeks.[5]

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) workplace violence in health care settings was already on the rise across the country before the pandemic began.  After the arrival of COVID-19, the prevalence remained high.  During COVID hospitals began experiencing longer wait times in the emergency rooms, were short staffed, and rationed care, factors that only escalated frustration. In another National Nurses United survey in 2022, 40% of hospital nurses report an increase in violent incidents.  The violence is usually kicking, punching, biting, or bodily fluids. But, not always.  In October 2022, a gunman opened fire at Dallas Methodist Medical Center, killing two nurses.  In October of the preceding year, a certified nursing assistant was murdered at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.  An unknown man just walked, unfettered, off the street and onto the CNA’s unit. No one stopped him.

The death of a Louisiana nurse, Lynne Truxillo, prompted a clarion call from medical workers nationwide demanding workplace safety.  Members of the nursing community expressed outrage over Truxillo’s story and called for better hospital safety practices to minimize the dangers of their profession.  Advocates said the nurse’s death in 2019 marks a line of tragedies from a persistent threat of workplace violence that healthcare workers face in hospitals across the country.  In this case, a behavioral health patient at Baton Rouge General Regional Medical Center had initially grabbed another nurse when Truxillo stepped in to stop the attack. The patient then turned on Truxillo, grabbing her neck and striking her head on a desk. She injured her leg trying to escape. Truxillo finished her shift before undergoing a medical exam, which revealed she would need surgery to repair a torn ACL.  She died five days later after a blood clot traveled to her lungs – a death the East Baton Rouge Parish coroner ruled a homicide because her injuries caused the blood clot.[6]

In August 2022, Louisiana created a number of new requirements for healthcare facilities directed towards addressing, mitigating, and preventing workplace violence.[7] “Workplace violence,” as defined in the legislation, means violent acts, including battery or the intentional placing of another person in reasonable apprehension of sustaining battery, directed toward persons at work or on duty with their employment.  In honor of the deceased nurse, the legislation was named the “Lynne Truxillo Act.”   It covers a wide-range of “regulated entities” including, but not limited to, adult day health care facilities, behavioral health services providers, ambulatory surgery centers, case management providers, urine drug screening providers, home health agencies, hospices, hospitals, nursing homes, rural health clinics, intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities (ICF/DD), end stage renal disease facilities, outpatient abortion facilities, psychiatric residential treatment facilities, children’s respite care centers, pediatric day health care facilities, community-based care facilities, and free-standing birth centers.

The new Louisiana legislation requires facilities to post signage, like that below, which states that abuse or assault of healthcare staff and others will not be tolerated and could result in a felony conviction.[8]  Anyone in Louisiana, who has been to a health care facility, a doctor’s office or a pharmacy lately, has seen this signage:


A workplace violence prevention plan is required by Louisiana’s legislation. The plan must address and encompass ongoing education and policies requiring health care workers to be trained, at least annually.  It also must include such topics as resources for ongoing education on the issue of workplace violence, preventing violence, responding to incidents of violence and debriefing about such incidents and responses.  Education and training is required to cover topics like how to recognize the potential for violence, when and how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence and how to report violent incidents to law enforcement.  Staffing, sufficiency of security systems, security risk associated with particular units of the workplace, areas of the facility with uncontrolled access, late night or early morning shifts, and areas surrounding the facility such as employee parking areas must be addressed.  Finally, the legislation requires healthcare facilities to report all instances of workplace violence and prohibits any adverse employment action being taken against an employee who reports an instance of workplace violence.

Again, in February 2024, JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that, at least, 29 states have passed or are looking to enact legislation that allows health care facilities to establish independent police forces to address a rising tide of violence against health care workers.[9]  Like Louisiana, many other states are approaching the issue by increasing the punishment for perpetrators or by mandating that health care facilities implement prevention measures designed to improve workplace safety.  JAMA suggests that states are stepping in since Congress has yet to take any action on the issue.

While there are currently no national standards in place, the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act of 2021[10] was recently reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This legislation would require health care and social service employers to put in place comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans, including procedures to identify risks.  It also would require all instances of violence to be reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  Meanwhile, groups like the Silent No More Foundation, Inc.[11] continues to work on legislation on a state-by-state basis to obtain basic legal protections for those in the healthcare professions.  While violence against healthcare workers will always be an issue, especially in emergency rooms, there are steps that can be taken to help keep the environment as safe as possible.

Otherwise, experienced nurses like Rebecca from the Duke Raleigh Hospital are considering leaving the profession.  Right now, Rebecca is off work recovering from a brutal attack by a patient that left her with a concussion, broken nose, a fracture at the floor of her left eye socket, which resulted in her eyeball sagging, and a need for reconstructive surgery.  Rebecca said ER is her passion but she is considering not returning.  “… It has me questioning, is it even worth it?”[12]

There is already a shortage of healthcare professionals in the U.S.  Mercer, a consulting firm, forecasts that by 2025 there will be “a shortage of more than 400,000 home health aides and 29,400 nurse practitioners.”[13] A shortage leads to burnout for everyone.  It also increases wait times for care.  When seeing more patients, health care professionals are often rushed and stressed.  That can lower patient satisfaction and negatively affect patient outcomes.  Errors in medication and other care delivery are more likely when facilities are understaffed.  These errors can have serious consequences.  The shortage of health care professionals also fuel even more frustration amongst patients and therefore, more violence in the work place.  Until the needs and safety of healthcare professionals can be addressed this is a vicious cycle that will continue.

Recently, I was in the hospital.  It was an unscheduled visit.  I had just returned from a trip abroad and caught a bug that caused my doctor to send me to the hospital.  I was frightened, worried, and alone. The only people there to comfort and care for me, at the time, were nurses.  They were compassionate, patient, tender, and loving.  I cannot imagine any one of the few nurses who cared for me being violated by another patient, let alone being killed by one.  These selfless healers deserve our help.  We need them.  Nurses are there to save patients, not each other. They are our caretakers, our caregivers.  They not only take care of us they take care of our loved ones.  They shoulder a burden that we cannot carry and many do not want to.

As judges, we cannot openly support political candidates. However, we can, support causes that improve the law, the legal system or the administration of justice.  That’s why I applaud groups like the Silent No More Foundation, Inc.[14] It protects healthcare workers before, during, and after workplace violence through education, advocacy, awareness, and legislation.  Until Congress acts to address the crisis facing healthcare professionals, groups like #SilentNoMore are essential to bringing to the public’s attention heightened and continuing awareness about this national problem.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  That is what healthcare professionals do every day.  Do not allow the death of Lynne Truxillo and the injuries to Dr. Tran and Nurse Rebecca to be in vain.   If you love a healthcare professional or appreciate a healthcare professional, share this article.

[1]              “US dentist may lose eye after allegedly getting stabbed in face by ex-patient.” The Guardian.com/us-news/2024/Feb 09 [New Orleans, LA], www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/feb/09/new-orleans-louisiana-dentist-stabbed?fbclid=lwAR1xTwaQv-8aBaXJBVRt5UdrKePsEaOSh1LAMs-D8GlnUGRcEVXewLiTgvi

[2]              U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS) 2018.  Workplace Violence in Healthcare. https://bls.gov//iif/oshwc/efoi/workplace-violence-healthcare-2018.htm [Google Scholar][Ref. list]

[3]              Press Ganey, pressganey.com/news/on-average-two-nurses-are-assaulted-every hour-new press-ganey-analysis-finds/Chicago 08 September 2022

[4]              Felio, Julia, “Nurse attacked by patient in Milwaukee hospital:  ‘A street brawl that you would see in a movie’” 2022 December 15, www.tmj4.com/news/local-news/nurse-attacked-by-patient-in-milwaukee-hospital-a -street-brawl-that-you-would-se-in-a-movie. Accessed 1 March 2024

[5]              Tamashiro, Kristy, “Kauai nurse attacked in emergency room recovering from extensive injuries” 23 December, 14. www/khon2.com/local-news/Kauai-nurse-attacked-in-emergency-room-recovering-from-extensive-injuries/.  Accessed 1March 2024

[6]              Skene, Lea, “Baton Rouge nurse’s death prompt medical workers nationwide to demand workplace safety”, www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge-/news/baton-rouge-nurses-death-prompts-medical-workers-nationwide-to-demand-workplace-safety/article_aea4332a-685b-11e9-a36f-6b551ef3717c.html, 26 April 2019

[7]              L.S.A.-R.S. 40:1299, et seq.

[8]              L.S.A.-R.S. 14:38.5

[9]              Campisi, Jon, “States addressing more violence against health care workers”,  Business Insurance, 27 February 2024, www.businessinsurance.com/article/20240227/NEWS08/912362935?template+printart.  Accessed 27 February 2024.

[10]             H.R. 1195 – 117th Congress (2021-2022)

[11]             Nurse.org Staff, “Nurses Say violent Assaults By Patients Are a Silent Epidemic”, 10 September 2023, www.nurse.org/articles/worklace-violence-in-nursing-and-hospitals/.  Accessed 1 March 2024.

[12]             Kummerer, Samantha, “‘I don’t remember what happened after that.’  Nurse demands change after being attacked by patient”, 15 December 2022, www.abc11.com/nurse-atacked-patient-duke-emergency-room-multiple-injuries/12575609.  Accessed 1 March 2024

[13]             “The Shortage of Healthcare Workers in the U.S.”, www.onlinenursing.duq.edu/post-master-certificates/shortage-of-healthcare-workers/.  Accessed 12 March 2024

[14]             www.facebook.com/SilentNoMoreFoundationInc/

“A Power of Attorney Doesn’t Make You One: Non-Lawyer Representation Before a Hearing Tribunal”

By Commissioner Wesley G. Marshall[1]
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission

February 2024


At a recent meeting of the Dispute Resolution Committee of the International Association of Industrial Boards and Commissions, a judge from one jurisdiction related attempts by non-lawyers vested with a Durable Power of Attorney to act in a representative capacity at evidentiary hearings. Workers’ Compensation proceedings in some jurisdictions are quasi-judicial or administrative, and often less formal than regular courtroom proceedings. Nonetheless, can or should a workers’ compensation court permit appearances in a representational capacity?

A majority of states have adopted the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA) from 2008 to 2017.[1] The UPOAA is a model law developed to promote uniformity in power of attorney processes and to eliminate differences between the laws of various states. [2] The UPOAA contains standardized definitions for the rights that can be exercised under a Power of Attorney.[3] The UPOAA provides:

Unless the power of attorney otherwise provides, language in a power of attorney granting general authority with respect to claims and litigation authorizes the agent to:

1. Assert and maintain before a court or administrative agency a claim, claim for relief, cause of action, counterclaim, offset, recoupment, or defense, including an action to recover property or other thing of value, recover damages sustained by the principal, eliminate, or modify tax liability, or seek an injunction, specific performance, or other relief;

2. Bring an action to determine adverse claims or intervene or otherwise participate in litigation.

On its plain language, the UPOAA suggests that one holding a Power of Attorney can, “assert and maintain,” a cause or claim before a “court of administrative agency.” Also, one vested with a Power of Attorney can, “intervene or otherwise participate in litigation.”[4]

But, not so fast. Virtually every state has professional rules relating to the Unauthorized Practice of Law.[5]

In Virginia, the legislature granted the Supreme Court of Virginia the authority to, “promulgate rules and regulations defining the practice of law.”[6] The legislature vested the Board of Bar Examiners with authority to, “determine[e] the qualifications of applicants. . .  determine[e] requirements for taking an passing examinations, and [grant] such certificates to the practice of law as may be authorized by the Supreme Court.”[7] The Rules of the Supreme Court directly address the unauthorized practice of law. “No non-lawyer shall engage in the practice of law in the Commonwealth of Virginia or otherwise hold himself or herself as authorized or qualified to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia except as may be authorized by rule or statute.”[8]

This somewhat begs the question: what is and is not the practice of law? Virginia’s Rules define it to include, when representing another, by words or conduct, to:

A.  Undertake for compensation, direct or indirect, to give advice or counsel to an entity or person in any matter involving the application of legal principles to facts.
B. Select, draft or complete legal documents or agreements which affect the legal rights of an entity or person.
C. Represent another entity or person before a tribunal.
D. Negotiate the legal rights or responsibilities on behalf of another entity or person.[9]

Separately, another code section creates specific groups of non-lawyers who are permitted to engage in limited actions that are not considered the practice of law.[10] These include limited circumstances, such as pro hac vice admissions for non-jurisdictionally licensed attorneys working with those in this state, military programs for low-income military members and dependents, social services workers, and students authorized under a third-year practice rule. The Supreme Court’s rule has a more expansive list of exclusions:

A.  Providing translation services.
B.  Selling legal forms.
C.  Pro se representation.
D.  Serving as a mediator, arbitrator, conciliator, or facilitator.
E.  Serving as a fiduciary.
F.  Acting as a lobbyist.
G.  Teaching law or providing legal information.
H.  Negotiating settlements and preparing releases in the course of employment as an adjustor or agent for an insurer.
I.  Preparing tax returns to the extend authorized by the Internal Revenue Service or other state law.[11]

The Supreme Court of Virginia addressed this issue in its September 13, 2021 Order, Unauthorized Practice of Law Opinion 218. This opinion affirmed and enhanced upon the earlier Unauthorized Practice of Law Opinion 194, issued May 1, 2000. In UPL Opinion 194, the Supreme Court concluded a power of attorney did not authorize a non-lawyer to prepare, sign, and file a Motion for Judgment in a circuit court, nor could the attorney-in-fact appear in court on the principal’s behalf. The Court wrote, “[a] general power of attorney is not sufficient to confer upon a non-lawyer the legal authority to practice law on the principal’s behalf. The authority to practice law is conferred by the state through the issuance of a license to practice law.”[12]

In UPL Opinion 218, the Court addressed the argument that the UPOAA’s language permitting holders of Powers of Attorney to “bring an action,” translated into a right for a non-lawyer to file pleadings or appear before a court or tribunal, on behalf of a principal, without a lawyer. The Court noted a lack of Virginia authority but did recite federal law.

In Manship v. Thomson,[13] the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia wrote:

… the right to litigate on one’s own behalf does not create a right to litigate on behalf of another person … absent certain narrow exceptions, an individual seeking to litigate someone else’s claims is without standing and cannot bring a lawsuit.

Manship argues that he has standing pursuant to Virginia’s Uniform Power of Attorney Act, Va. Code Ann. § 26-72 (2000) … Manship misinterprets the Virginia statute. A power of attorney does not grant an individual the power to act as an attorney. The practice of law is limited to pro se litigants seeking to vindicate their own rights and licensed attorneys admitted to practice before the court. See Pridgen v. Andersen, 113 F.3d 391, 393 (2d Cir. 1997). Manship is neither.

The Supreme Court of Virginia also cited other federal authority, including this salty sailor’s snippet:

“In sum, litigation is akin to navigating hazardous waters; federal courts are willing to allow individuals to steer their own boats, and perhaps founder or run aground; but federal courts are not willing to permit individuals to risk the safety of others’ boats.”[14]

“The inherent right of a person to appear pro se in legal proceedings cannot be assigned to another by executing the power of attorney. To hold otherwise would invite the unauthorized practice of law.”[15]

From a practical perspective, permitting an individual with a Durable Power of Attorney to appear in a representative capacity, without counsel, is fraught with problems. The person possessing the Power of Attorney is not an attorney.[16] They cannot present direct evidence because usually they were not witness to the facts giving rise to the cause. Any attempt to embrace such a notion would be fraught with endless hearsay problems. “My mother told me to tell you she was working at the factory on June 15 when the machine mis-cycled and cut off four fingers on her right hand.” Judges must protect their records and protect the integrity of their systems, including enforcing appropriate guardrails for the practice of law.

Ultimately, in UPL Opinion 218, the Supreme Court of Virginia noted a constellation of states[17] had concluded, “a power of attorney is not a license to practice law.”[18] So, just because you have a Power of Attorney does not make you one.

[1] The UPOAA has been adopted in: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the District of Columbia. Non-adopting states have their own Power of Attorney laws.
[2] In 1979, a Uniform Durable Power of Attorney Act was approved. Unif. Durable of Attorney Act (1979) (Unif. Law Comm’n, amended 1987). In 2006, the UPOAA was adopted. Unif. Power of Attorney Act (2006) (Unif. Law Comm’n, amended 2016).
[3] “While the legal doctrine of agency is ancient, the durable agent is not. Until about sixty years ago, an agent’s authority automatically terminated upon the incapacity of the agent’s principal, making agency arrangements ineffective . . . . Virginia led the way by enacting in 1954 the prototypical statute for durable powers of attorney[,]” Act of Apr. 5, 1954, ch. 486, 1954 Va. Acts 581-82. Manns, F. Philip, Jr., Powers of Attorney under the Uniform Power of Attorney Act Including Reference to Virginia Law, 43 ACTEC L.J. 151, 153-154, 154 n. 1. (2018).
[4] Unif. Power of Attorney Act §212(1) and (2).
[5] See, e.g., Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct r. 5.5: Unauthorized Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law (Am. Bar Ass’n 1983).
[6] Va. Code §54.1-3909.
[7] Va. Code §54.1-3922.
[8] Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6 § I (1). The Rule references Virginia Code §54.1-3904, which makes anyone engaging in the unauthorized practice of law guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to 12 months and/or a $2,500 fine.
[9] Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6 § I (2).
[10] Va. Code §54.1-3900.
[11] Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Part 6 §1 (3). Other exceptions apply. For instance, Virginia Code §16.1-88.03 and 16.1-81.1 permit nonlawyers to prepare, sign, and file pleadings on behalf of specified business entities and allow them to be represented by non-lawyer officers before general district courts. The Virginia District Court Judges’ Benchbook contains 8 pages of exceptions where non-lawyers may engage in various transactions and actions. Id. at 215-222 (2023); see also Grigg, Virginia, The Practice of Law or Not the Practice of Law, That is the Question, Wealth Strategies Journal (September 9, 2019), https://wealthstrategiesjournal.com/2019/09/09/the-practice-of-law-or-not-the-practice-of-law-that-is-the-question/ (providing another list of exceptions).
[12] Supreme Court of Virginia, UPL Op. 194 (May 1, 2000).
[13] Case No. 5:11CV00030 (W.D. Va. Apr. 19, 2011).
[14] Supreme Court of Virginia, UPL Op. 218 at 6 (Sept. 13, 2021) (quoting Brown v. Ortho Diagnostic Sys., 868 F. Supp. 168 (E.D. Va. 1994)).
[15] Gilman POA Manheim v. Kipp, 136 Misc. 2d 860, 519 N.Y.S. 314, 315 (Syracuse City Ct. 1987).
[16] The Nevada Court of Appeals noted that permitting one with a Power of Attorney to appear in a representative capacity would endorse the “absurd result” of “sanctioning criminal conduct by permitting nonlawyers to engage in the unauthorized practice of law.” Eby v. Johnston Law Office, P.C., 518 P.3d 517, 524 (Ct. App. Nev. Sept. 8, 2022) (quoting Drake v. Superior Court, 26 Cal. Rptr. 2d 829 (Cal. Ct. App. 1994)).
[17] UPL Op. 218 at 6 (citing Baldwin v. Mollette, 527 S.W.3d 830 (Ky. Ct. App. 2017); Fallarino v. Fallarino, 56 N.Y.S.3d 414, 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 27186 (2d Dept., Appellate Term, 2017); KeyBank Nat’l Ass. v. Sarameh, 2013 Ohio 2576 (Ohio App. 2013); In Re: Conservatorship of Riebel, 625 N.W.2d 480 (Minn. 2001); Haynes v. Jackson, 2000 ME 11, 744 A.2d 1050 (Me. 2000); Disciplinary Counsel v. Coleman, 88 Ohio St.3d 155, 158, 724 N.E.2d 402 (2000)); See also Supreme Court of Virginia, UPL Op. 194 (May 1, 2000).
[18] Id. See also Powerserve Int’l, Inc. v. Lavi, 239 F.3d 508, 514 (2d Cir. 2001) (“an ‘attorney’in-fact may not litigate a pro se action on behalf of another”); Johns v. Cty. of San Diego, 114 F.3d 874, 876 (9th Cir. 1997); Weber v. Garza, 570 F.2d 511, 514 (5th Cir. 1978); Banks v. Gates Hudson & Assoc., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-1259 (E. D. Va. June 23, 2020) (“The right to litigate for oneself … does not create a coordinate right to litigate for others.”) (quoting Myers v. Loudoun Cty. Pub. Schs., 418 F.3d 395, 400 (4th Cir. 2005)); Christiansen v. Melinda, 857 P.2d 345, 346-39 (Alaska 1993); Drake v. Superior Court, 26 Cal. Rptr. 2d 829 (Cal. Ct. App. 1994). Jones v. Brooks, 97 A.3d 97, 97 (D.C. 2014); Eby v. Johnston Law Office, P.C., 518 P.3d 517, 524 (Ct. App. Nev. Sept. 8, 2022); Kohlman v. W. Pa. Hospital, 652 A.2d 849, 850-52 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1994).

High-Quality Educational Training: A Shared Goal of Great Importance

By Judge Neera Bahl

Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation

Atlanta, Georgia


As an Appellate Judge and Director for the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation and a member of National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary, Inc. (NAWCJ), I have observed several shared goals of these two organizations. I would like to discuss one of these shared goals in this article. The NAWCJ seeks to provide a national forum for the enhancement of the workers’ compensation adjudication process and justice system. To help with this mission, one of the goals of the NAWCJ is to provide high-quality educational training to workers’ compensation adjudicators and administrators across the United States on matters unique to the workers’ compensation system. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation also seeks to enhance the workers’ compensation adjudication process and justice system albeit at a state level. Similarly, one of our goals is to provide high-quality educational opportunities for employees, employers, and other participants in the system.  This educational goal is integral to the Board’s mission statement and values, and the authority of the Board to provide such educational opportunities is set forth in the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act.

In August 2023, the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation launched its first annual workers’ compensation insurance adjuster training program. Insurance adjusters play a crucial role in the workers’ compensation claims process. They must possess knowledge of the workers’ compensation insurance industry, the skill to effectively administer claims, and perhaps most importantly, the empathy and understanding necessary to navigate difficult situations with professionalism and kindness.  The Board has an immense appreciation for insurance adjusters, and consequently, the Board developed and tailored this training program specially to insurance adjusters handling Georgia workers’ compensation claims. Upon completion of this program, adjusters can earn up to 12 CEU (continuing education unit) hours. Over 200 insurance adjusters attended this in-person training in August 2023, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Unlike adjuster training opportunities offered by third parties such as vendors and law firms, this new training program is conducted by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation with the help of notable industry leaders. Who better to learn from than the Board itself? Topics in 2023 included general benefit information, proper filing of board forms, return to work issues, medical case management, alternative dispute resolution, and the hearing and appellate process. We also included an ethics and professionalism session, and our keynote speaker was journalist, Monica Kaufman Pearson.  Administrative law judges and appellate judges were also in attendance and enjoyed interacting with attendees.

Our second annual Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation insurance adjuster training program will be held August 27 – 28, 2024 in Alpharetta, Georgia at The Hotel at Avalon. This year we will offer two different program tracks. We have an exciting agenda planned with topics such as “Adjuster Panel: Real Life Case Scenarios – How to Handle Difficult Claims,” “Adjuster and Expert Depositions: How to Prepare,” and “Best Practices in Communications with Vendors and Pro Se Claimants.” We will continue to extend up to 12 CEU hours to those who complete the training program. We believe this program to be perfect complement to our four regional educational seminars and our annual educational conference which provides valuable information for employers, insurers/self-insurers, human resource and risk managers, rehabilitation specialists, medical service providers, case managers, workers’ compensation attorneys, paralegals, and other workers’ compensation system participants, as well as insurance claims adjusters.

As a service-oriented organization, it is vital that we serve all our many stakeholders and the state of Georgia. We must always ask ourselves if there is something we can improve upon, or offer, to uphold our mission statement and to meet our goals. Our new adjuster training program is one such way in which we can continue to enhance the workers’ compensation adjudication process. If you are interested in attending our insurance adjuster training program in 2024, you can follow our website at www.sbwc.georgia.gov. I hope to see you there!

Top 10 Appellate Decisions During the 100 Years of NCCI

By Thomas A. Robinson, JD., MDiv

Copyright © 2023Thomas A. Robinson, all rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission.

Heartiest congratulations to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) as it celebrates 100 years of service to the workers’ compensation system. “Our” system has seen substantial changes over the years and NCCI has deftly adapted along with it. Recently, as I contemplated NCCI’s strength and resiliency, I thought it would be interesting to highlight and discuss some of the truly significant workers’ compensation appellate decisions that have been handed down since 1923. The winnowing was not easy. By way of context, in my 37 years of working on “the Treatise” [Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, 17 vols., Matthew-Bender/LexisNexis (Larson)], I have read—sometimes only skimmed—more than 60,000 appellate decisions from across the nation. Reporting here on just a handful inevitably results in omitting some important decisions. Your list would assuredly be different from mine. Nevertheless, with some bit of presumptuousness, and with a parenthetical note included in the following paragraph, I offer below—in no particular order—my assessment of 10 significantly important decisions over the life of NCCI.

May I initially allow that one of the most significant decisions in our field, this one by the U.S. Supreme Court in New York C. R. Co. v. White, 243 U.S. 188, 37 S. Ct. 247, 61 L. Ed. 667 (1917), is excluded from my list because it predates NCCI’s founding by six years. You likely know the important backdrop of the White decision. In 1910, the first New York Act was passed, with compulsory coverage for certain “hazardous employments.” However, that Act was declared unconstitutional in 1911 by the state’s Court of Appeals in Ives v. South Buffalo Ry. Co., 201 N.Y. 271, 94 N.E. 431 (1911). Ives, it should be recalled, was handed down on March 24, 1911, one day before the tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village, which resulted in the deaths of 146 workers. The Ives court found that the imposition of liability without fault upon an employer was a taking of property without due process of law under the state and federal constitutions. After Ives, the State of New York amended its constitution to require that most employers provide “workmen’s [sic] compensation” to employees who were disabled or killed while in the scope of employment. In White, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld New York’s constitutional amendment. With such a pronouncement from our nation’s highest court, the stage was set for the expansion of a state-by-state system of providing indemnity benefits and medical expenses for thousands of injured employees. Now, to my list:

Odd-Lot Principle

Lee v. Minneapolis St. Ry., 230 Minn. 315, 41 N.W.2d 433, 436 (1950)

As observed in Larson, § 83.02, “total disability” in workers’ compensation law is not to be interpreted literally as utter and abject helplessness. Evidence that claimant has been able to earn occasional wages or perform certain kinds of gainful work does not necessarily rule out a finding of total disability nor require that it be reduced to partial. The task is to phrase a rule delimiting the amount and character of work a person can be able to do without forfeiting his or her totally disabled status. The term “odd-lot” was used first by Judge Moulton in the early King’s Bench case of Cardiff Corp. v. Hall, (1911) 1 K.B. 1009, but the best early example of the doctrine in the United States is found in Lee v. Minneapolis St. Ry. The rule was expertly summarized by Justice Matson of the Minnesota Supreme Court in the following language:

An employee who is so injured that he or she can perform no services other than those which are so limited in quality, dependability, or quantity that a reasonably stable market for them does not exist, may well be classified as totally disabled [41 N.W.2d at 436].

Claimant, a streetcar flagman, as a result of being caught between two streetcars, suffered the loss of his left eye, 75 percent loss of use of his left arm, 10 percent loss of use of the right ankle and foot, and severe post-traumatic neurosis. He worked for short periods thereafter as a conductor, as an income tax worker, as a house-to-house canvasser, and as a detective, all with great difficulty and discomfort. The Supreme Court, applying the rule quoted above, held that the sporadic employment and earnings shown were not inconsistent with the concept of total disability.

Substantially Certain Rule as a Departure from “Pure Intent”

Mandolidis v. Elkins Industries, Inc., 161 W. Va. 695, 246 S.E.2d 907 (1978)

In virtually all US jurisdictions, an intentional assault by the employer upon the employee, when the employer acts in person as distinguished from constructively through an agent, will ground a common-law action for damages. The same holds true if the assailant is the alter ego of the employer. Several legal theories have been advanced to support this exception to exclusivity. The best is that the employer will not be heard to allege that the injury was “accidental,” and, therefore, was under the exclusive remedy provision of the workers’ compensation act when the employer intentionally committed the assault.

Generally, for more than 60 years, appellate courts across the nation routinely held that since the legal justification for the common-law action was the non-accidental character of the injury from the defendant employer’s standpoint, the common-law liability of the employer could not be stretched to include accidental injuries caused by the gross, wanton, wilful, deliberate, intentional, reckless, culpable, or malicious negligence, breach of statute, or other misconduct of the employer short of a conscious and deliberate intent directed to the purpose of inflicting an injury [see Larson, § 103.03].

In the 1978 Mandolidis decision, West Virginia was the first jurisdiction to depart from what might be called the “pure intent” standard. The West Virginia Supreme Court took the position that the state’s statute permitting damage suits against the employer “if the injury or death of such employee results from the deliberate intent of the employer to produce such injury or death” also permitted such suit for “wilful, wanton, and reckless misconduct.” That exception to the pure intent standard subsequently became known as the “substantially certain” rule.

Short-Lived Oklahoma Opt-Out Law

Vasquez v. Dillard’s, Inc., 2016 OK 89, 381 P.3d 768

Much ink has been spilled regarding Oklahoma’s unsuccessful attempt to emulate the workers’ compensation system utilized by her giant neighbor to the south. In Texas, the employer need not provide coverage to its employees at all and, to the extent that it desires its employees to be covered by the state’s Act, it must affirmatively elect such coverage [see Larson, § 102.01].

In 2013, the Oklahoma legislature passed—and the governor signed—its controversial “opt out” statute, allowing employers to choose between a rather standard workers’ compensation act and an individualized written “benefit plan” that provided benefits generally in line with the state’s standard plan, but which also allowed significant differences in, inter alia, notice requirements, statutes of limitations, and allowance for attorney’s fees. The stage was set for a constitutional battle.

In Vasquez, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, in a 7–2 decision, held the core provision of the Oklahoma Opt Out Law (Okla. Stat. tit. 85A, § 203) created “impermissible, unequal, disparate treatment of a select group of injured workers” and, therefore, was an unconstitutional special law under the Oklahoma Constitution, art 2, § 59 [Opinion, ¶ 1].

Employee or Self-Employed Contractor?

Re/Max of New Jersey, Inc. v. Wausau Insurance Cos., 162 N.J. 282, 744 A.2d 154 (2000)

It is almost always said, both in the common law of master and servant and in workers’ compensation law, that the fundamental test of employment relation is the right of the employer to control the details of the work, and that all other tests are subordinate and secondary. The rule is often best put negatively: An owner or general contractor, who wants to get work done without becoming an employer, is entitled to as much control of the details of the work as is necessary to ensure that it gets the end result from the contractor for which it has bargained. The line, however, may be quite difficult to draw in the case of skilled or experienced workers, e.g., real estate salespersons, since the same skills and experience allow performance of the job without supervision or interference.

The difficulty is exhibited in Re/Max of New Jersey, Inc. v. Wausau Insurance Cos., wherein the New Jersey Supreme Court held that real estate agents should be treated as employees and not as independent contractors for purposes of computing workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

The Re/Max agents enjoyed a particularly high level of independence and autonomy. For example, the agents’ hours were not regulated by the “employer,” agents engaged in their own advertising, and all franchise/agency documentation designated the agents as independent contractors. Perhaps the strongest evidence of independent status was the commission policy. Unlike agents associated with most other real estate companies, the Re/Max agents did not share their commissions with the sales office. Instead, each agent paid his or her share of overhead and related expenses. Notwithstanding the relative autonomy allowed each agent, the Court viewed the arrangement as a whole, holding it to be “simply another sophisticated attempt to thwart the employer-employee relationship.”

Actions by Spouses or Dependents

Snyder v. Michael’s Stores, Inc., 16 Cal. 4th 991, 68 Cal. Rptr. 2d 476, 945 P.2d 781 (1997)

Under the most common type of exclusive remedy clause in a state workers’ compensation act, suits by husbands for loss of the wife’s services and consortium, by wives for loss of the husband’s services and consortium, by parents for loss of minor children’s services, by dependent children, and by next of kin under wrongful death statutes are all barred following an employee’s work-related injury. These claims are deemed to be derivative of the employee’s injury and untenable [see Larson, 101.02]. Where the claim is not derivative, but due to an alleged direct to the family member, the result is often different.

The leading decision on this issue is from the Supreme Court of California in Snyder v. Michael’s Stores, Inc., in which a pregnant employee, Snyder, was exposed to toxic levels of carbon monoxide that had accumulated within the poorly ventilated store. Snyder and at least twenty other employees and customers became ill and were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Subsequently, Snyder gave birth to a daughter who suffered from cerebral palsy, allegedly due to oxygen deprivation brought about by the increased levels of carbon monoxide in the store. The California Supreme Court determined that the child’s injuries were not dependent upon injury to the mother. The court held the child’s claim was not derivative and that the workers’ compensation exclusivity rules did not apply.

Quite recently, the issue arose in a case involving COVID-19. In Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, Inc. (2023) 2023 Cal. LEXIS 3733, the Supreme Court of California, responding to two questions certified to it by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, answered that if an employee contracts COVID-19 at the workplace and brings the virus home to a spouse, the derivative injury rule of California’s workers’ compensation law does not bar the spouse’s negligence claim against the employer. The Court tempered the strength of that answer, however, by also answering that the employer does not owe a duty of care under California law to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to employees’ household members. The Court stressed that although it was certainly foreseeable that an employer’s negligence in permitting workplace spread of COVID-19 might cause members of employees’ households to contract the disease, recognizing a duty of care to non-employees in this context would impose an intolerable burden on employers and society in contravention of public policy.

Injury vs. Occupational Disease

Booker v. Duke Medical Center, 297 N.C. 458, 256 S.E.2d 189 (1979)

At one time in many states, designation of an employee’s condition as an occupational disease, instead of an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of the employment, was crucial. The original workers’ compensation acts provided no coverage at all for occupational diseases. Now, of course, every American jurisdiction provides some level of compensation for occupational diseases. Still, some distinctions between occupational injuries and occupational diseases are important. Moreover, some fact patterns fall between the two categorizations.

For example, in Booker v. Duke Medical Center, the claimant’s decedent was an employee at Duke Medical Center’s clinical chemistry laboratory, where he did blood work, including the handling of hepatitis-contaminated blood. He contracted serum hepatitis in 1971 and died of the disease in 1974.

The intermediate appellate court held that the hepatitis had not been contracted by accident, since the deceased frequently handled and spilled blood on himself, and an occurrence which is frequent and regular could not be considered an accident. Alternatively, however, serum hepatitis could not be considered an occupational disease for a laboratory technician because it was not caused by a gradual series of events of similar nature but instead transmitted by one single event. Nor was hepatitis within the well understood definition of occupational disease as intended by the legislature.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed. The high court acknowledged that the definition of occupational disease in force at the time of the employee’s death generally referenced diseases “peculiar to a particular … employment,” but noted as well that the definition excluded “all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed …” [N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-53(13)]. The Court stressed that “peculiar” did not mean “unique” to the employment. It was enough that the employment increased the risk. Here, the employee had contracted an infectious disease because of his employment; it fell, therefore, within the general definition of “occupational disease.”

Mental-Mental Injuries/Conditions

Bailey v. American Gen. Ins. Co., 154 Tex. 430, 279 S.W.2d 315 (1955)

For decades after the passage of the first state workers’ compensation acts, few seriously suggested that an employee should be able to recover benefits resulting from a mental injury caused by a work-related mental stimulus. Some early decisions awarded benefits where there had been a distinct physical accident or trauma that subsequently manifested itself into a mental condition [see Larson, § 56.03]. These were explained by the doctrine that an employer is generally responsible for all “sequelae” that flow from the primary work-related injury.

The greater hurdle, of course, occurred where there was no such physical trauma. Could the employee recover for a mental condition caused by a mental stimulus? In the Bailey decision, the Texas Supreme Court offered one of the most cogent discussions of the relevant points. There, the claimant and another worker were on a scaffold when one end gave way. The other worker, in sight of the claimant, plunged to his death. Claimant thought he himself was about to be killed, but he was caught in the cable and did not fall. He managed to jump to the roof of another building. After this experience, he tried to resume his employment, but, although he had trained for it all his life, and was considered one of the better structural steel workers, he could not continue. He experienced multiple health issues and concerns, including sleep issues and violent nightmares.

What makes the Bailey case especially noteworthy is the fact that the award was made under a statute defining “injury” as “damage or harm to the physical structure of the body.”

The court gave an unqualified answer of “yes” to this question, reversing the Court of Civil Appeals. In supporting its conclusion, the court, in effect, said: look at this worker’s symptoms; obviously the worker’s body no longer functions properly; therefore, can you say as a matter of law that a body which no longer functions properly has suffered no harm to its physical structure? The physical structure is not just bones and tissues considered as if they were mechanical objects; it is the entire interrelated, living, functioning organism.

Reimbursing Employee for Medical Marijuana

Vialpando v. Ben’s Automotive Servs., 331 P.3d 975 (N.M. Ct. App. 2014), writ denied, 331 P.3d 924 (N.M. 2014)

The use of medical marijuana to treat disease and alleviate pain has grown significantly since the use of the substance, at least within limited medical parameters, has been legislatively authorized in a number of states.

The first reported decision involving the medical marijuana reimbursement question within the workers’ compensation context was Vialpando v. Ben’s Automotive Servs. There, the employee sustained a low back injury that required multiple surgical procedures. Following those surgeries, the employer stipulated that the employee had reached MMI and that he had sustained a 99 percent PPD. A treating physician indicated that of the thousands of patients he had treated, the employee’s pain level was among the highest the physician had ever seen.

Doctors had unsuccessfully treated the employee’s pain levels with multiple opioids and anti-depressant medications. Eventually, the employee filed an application for approval of a medical marijuana regime pursuant to New Mexico’s Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act (“the Compassionate Use Act”) [N.M. Stat. Ann. §§?26-2B-1 to 26-2B-7, et seq.]. Following a hearing, the WCJ found that the employee was entitled to ongoing and reasonable medical care, that the employee was qualified to participate in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program authorized by the state’s Compassionate Use Act, and that such treatment would be reasonable and necessary medical care under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The employer appealed, contending in pertinent part that the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act required that medical care and services be provided by a “health care provider” (as defined under the Act), that it was illegal for such a health care provider to provide marijuana to an injured worker, and that under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the employer could not be required to make the reimbursement.

The appellate court disagreed with the employer’s premise. The court stressed that the Workers’ Compensation Act required only that a health care provider have the responsibility for the provision of the reasonable and necessary services. Some reasonable medical services could be provided by persons who did not meet the statutory definition of “health care provider.”

As to the employer’s contention that requiring reimbursement would be tantamount to being ordered to disobey federal law, the court countered that the employer had not cited any specific federal statute that it would be forced to violate if it were ordered to reimburse the injured worker for medical marijuana. Based on the foregoing, the Court of Appeals agreed with the WCJ that the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act authorized reimbursement to the injured employee.

Deceit by the Employer

Johns-Manville Products Corporation v. Contra Costa Superior Court (Ruskin), 27 Cal. 3d 465, 165 Cal. Rptr. 858, 612 P.2d 948 (1980)

Generally, the cases involving allegations of deceit, fraud, and false representation on the part of the employer can best be sorted out by distinguishing those in which the deceit precedes and helps produce the injury, and those in which the deceit follows the injury and produces a second injury or loss [see Larson, § 104.03]. In the first category, a tort action has usually been found barred, since the deceit, so to speak, merges into the injury for which a compensation remedy is provided. If, however, after the basic compensable injury or disease has occurred, the employer fraudulently deceives the employee as to the existence of this condition, a separate action in deceit may lie, unaffected by the exclusive remedy clause. The leading case for this point is the decision of the California Supreme Court in Johns-Mansville Products Corporation v. Contra Costa Superior Court (Rudkin).

The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the employer fraudulently concealed from him, and from the doctors treating him, that he was suffering from an asbestos-related disease, and that, as a result, his condition was aggravated by further exposure that he otherwise would have avoided. Moreover, he was prevented from receiving treatment he would have obtained if he had known of his condition.

The Supreme Court of California held that this stated a cause of action, free of the exclusive remedy bar. The court reaffirmed that, if the employer’s only alleged misconduct was intentionally concealing the initial hazard of the work environment because of asbestos exposure, and failing to provide protective devices, the only remedy would be under the compensation act, even if governmental regulations on dust levels were violated.

But the court assimilated this case to the class of cases identified by Dr. Larson as “dual injury.” The second injury—concealing the existence of the first, and thereby inflicting additional harm—was an independent wrong and hence not within the exclusive remedy clause.

Compensation for Undocumented Workers

Correa v. Waymouth Farms, Inc., 664 N.W.2d 324 (Minn. 2003)

During the past several decades, we’ve seen a number of difficult issues arise regarding workplace injuries (or diseases) sustained by undocumented workers. In one important decision, Correa v. Waymouth Farms, Inc., Correa sustained a work-related injury, was paid medical benefits and other workers’ compensation benefits, and returned to light duty work for the employer. Nearly a year after the injury, the employer notified Correa that it had received information that Correa did not have a valid alien registration number, that the social security number he had provided did not correspond to his identity, and that there was no valid alien registration number and social security number in Correa’s name. He was given 48 hours to provide adequate documentation and was fired when he could not do so.

The employer also sought to discontinue compensation benefits on the grounds that as an undocumented worker, Correa could not accept a job offer and, therefore, could not pursue a reasonable job search. The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals disagreed and refused to allow discontinuation. The state Supreme Court affirmed.

The high court acknowledged that Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was intended to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers and that it was also intended to prevent such workers from using fraudulent work papers to gain employment. The court stressed, however, that IRCA was not intended to prevent the payment of otherwise valid workers’ compensation benefits. Entitlement to temporary total disability benefits was conditioned upon the establishment of a causal link between the work-related disability and the inability to find and keep a job, such as through a “diligent job search.” The court observed that In Redgate v. Sroga’s Standard Service, 421 N.W.2d 729 (Minn. 1988), the court had defined a “diligent job search” as one that was “reasonable under all the facts and circumstances.” Immigration status, indicated the Correa court, was but one of many facts and circumstances to be considered. The court concluded that payment of compensation benefits was not precluded the IRCA.

College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Induction of 2024 Fellows

By Hon. Shannon Bruno Bishop
Louisiana Workforce Commission
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


On March 16, 2024, The College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers inducted its 2024 Class at the Union League Club in Chicago, Illinois.  Among the honored inductees were three of our NAWCJ members, Judge Meg G. Kerr (Miami, FL) , Judge Daniel A. Lewis (Lauderdale Lakes, FL), and Judge Erik B. Grindal (Sarasota, FL).  Judge Kerr has served as a Judge of Compensation claims since 2013.  Prior to her appointment, she practiced as a workers’ compensation attorney in Miami for twenty years.  Judge Lewis has served the Florida community for thirty-five years.  In 2015, he was awarded the inaugural Vance B. Moore Professionalism Award by the Broward County Bar Association.  Judge Grindal has practiced since 1998 and fills the judicial seat in the Sarasota District.





William McRae “Captain Mayheem” speaks to the audience.










               NAWCJ President Sheral Kellar was on hand to congratulate our NAWCJ members and new CWCL Fellows.







During the Induction Dinner, the CWCL honored Sir Henry Morgan (1635 – 1688) as its 2024 Legend.  Captain Morgan, more popularly known as the namesake for a popular brand of rum, is less know for what he did for the field of workers’ compensation.  Captain Morgan created the first modern written system of recompense by providing gold and other valuables to his crew for their injuries, loss of limbs, or death.  He provided monetary payments based on the injury or loss suffered by the privateer (pirate).  Captain Morgan’s philosophy was that if you take care of your people, they will be loyal to you.  The 2024 Legend’s Award was accepted by William McRea aka “Captain Maheem” from the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum.

Commissioner Michael Brennan, of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, also a 2024 Inductee, gave the keynote speech.  The speech was riveting and provided a historical background of how workers’ compensation has evolved.  Commissioner Brennan also quoted President Theodore Roosevelt, who was honored as the 2023 CWCL Legend.  In his speech to Congress regarding the Railway Act, President Roosevelt said “The entire burden of the accident falls on the helpless man, his wife, and his young children.”  He said, “Exactly as the working man is entitled to his wages, so should he be entitled to indemnity for the injuries sustained in the natural course of his labor.”  The CWCL Induction Dinner was such a wonderful event.  Attendees marveled in the beauty of the ballroom and works of art at the Union League Club in Chicago, but most of all, we were able to receive a historical and interesting summation on the evolution of workers’ compensation in our country.  Once again, I wish a huge congratulations to our NAWCJ judges who were inducted as CWCL Fellows and thank them for what they are doing for the field of workers’ compensation.



By Pamela B. Johnson
Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims
Knoxville, TN


NEXT LUNCH AND LEARN: The NAWCJ will hold its next one-hour Lunch and Learn program on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Save the Date and join your fellow NAWCJ judges to engage in the discussion on the latest hot topics.

The NAWCJ launched this virtual initiative as a benefit for our members and to supplement discussions held at the “Boot Camp” and the annual Judicial College. We hope you join us to learn and discuss relevant and engaging workers’ compensation topics from the comfort of your home or office. The aim of this program is to gain knowledge, build collegiality, and develop professionally.

TOPIC OR SPEAKER SUGGESTIONS: The NAWCJ Lunch and Learn Committee is looking for suggestions for future Lunch & Learn topics and speakers. Please email pamela.johnson@tn.gov with your suggestions.

PRIOR LUNCH AND LEARNS: Have you missed an earlier Lunch and Learn or want to watch one again, NAWCJ members may access the NAWCJ YouTube Playlist at the link below:


UPCOMING ZOOM LINK: Two weeks before next Lunch and Learn, the NAWCJ will send out an email blast to all members with a link to join the Zoom meeting.

FUTURE LUNCH AND LEARNS: Lunch and Learns are held twice per year, usually on the first Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time in the months of June and December.

  • Wednesday, June 5, 2024 – TBD
  • Wednesday, December 4, 2024 – TBD


By:  Hon. Suzette Carlisle, Ph.D.
Administrative Law Judge
Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation


NAWCJ presidents devote their time, vision, energy, and creativity to the advancement of the organization, as members, committee chairs, secretary, treasurer, president-elect, and as president.  After years of service, the fast and furious pace abruptly ends at the end of their presidency.  Or does it?  Over the past year, we caught up with four past presidents to find out what they have been doing since leaving office.  Judges Lott, Moore, Alvey, and Hopens have remained active with NAWCJ and in the communities they serve.   Today, we visit with the Honorable Shannon Bruno Bishop from Louisiana.  Like her predecessors, she remains committed to NAWCJ and her community.  This is her story.

  1. Please state your full name and title.  Shannon Bruno Bishop, District Judge.
  1. What is your current work status? I currently serve as the District Judge at the Office of Workers’ Compensation in Harahan, Louisiana.
  1. Please state a brief history of your career, i.e., positions and dates. After law school, I practiced Plaintiff’s work in Mississippi, then I moved home to Louisiana where I worked as an insurance defense lawyer.  After Katrina, I began working at the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Office of Workers’ Compensation as an attorney/mediator.  After nine years, I became a District Judge, where I currently serve.  However, for a two-year period during that time, I had the opportunity to serve as Chief Judge.
  1. How did you become acquainted with the NAWCJ? Three months after taking the bench, my Chief Judge suggested I attend the NAWCJ Judicial College.  It was a great experience, and I quickly became involved with various aspects of the organization.
  1. In addition to being a past president, what leadership roles have you held in the organization, and when? As a member of the NAWCJ, I have served in the following positions:

– President 2021-2022
– Board of Directors 2018 – 2024
– Lex and Verum Editorial Committee 2016 – 2021
– Adjudicators’ Hall of Fame Nominating Committee 2021
– Judicial College Curriculum Committee 2018
– Judicial College Conference Chairperson 2019 – 2024
– Parliamentary/Planning Committee 2019

  1. List an achievement, event, or person you believe made a significant contribution to the organization’s history during your tenure with the organization. There are so many wonderful adjudicators who have contributed to the organization’s history.  These individuals have molded the organization into what it is today.  I am thankful that my Chief Judge (current NAWCJ President, Sheral Kellar) introduced me to the organization.  I have had the pleasure of serving on various committees and the Board of Directors since 2016, but the most memorable experience was being inducted into the NAWCJ Adjudicator’s Hall of Fame.  I am a member of the NAWCJ, and I participate in its activities because it is something I truly enjoy.  I cherish the experiences and enjoy every aspect of the organization.  Being recognized for my work and achievements is something I will always remember.
  1. Do you believe the organization remains relevant today? Yes, I believe the NAWCJ is a very relevant organization.
  1. If so, in what way? The NAWCJ is a networking vehicle that connects judges from across the country.  Members can always pick up the phone or shoot an e-mail to a fellow judge across the country to share ideas about workers’ comp issues in their jurisdictions.  I have made so many connections and even more friends through this organization.  The relationships are ones that I cherish, even when I may only see my colleagues once a year.  We come together as though we had lunch just days earlier.  The NAWCJ also provides continued learning opportunities through the New Judges’ Bootcamp, Lunch and Learn seminars, and the Judicial College.  The programs are always interesting and relevant to issues I encounter in Louisiana.
  1. How can members get more involved with the organization? To become more involved with the NAWCJ, members should participate in the educational opportunities and reach out to committee members to obtain more information about joining the various committees.
  1. How can the board do more to reach members and expand membership? The Board has taken steps to increase membership and involvement by creating a Long-Range Planning and Membership Committee.  This is a huge step in expanding membership and increasing involvement in the organization’s activities.
  1. Is there anything you would like to add about the organization, yourself, etc? My career as a workers’ compensation judge would not be as enjoyable if it were not for the NAWCJ.  I truly meant every word of what I said earlier.  I highly recommend that Workers’ Compensation adjudicators make every effort to be involved with the NAWCJ.