When I was first starting out as an associate attorney, my impulse if I ever lost on an issue at trial was always to seek appeal. Surely I was right and higher minds would help me to prevail. One thing I have learned in my last 8-9 years of practice (aside from a large measure of humility) is that sometimes it is better for my client NOT to appeal, even if appealing would have resulted in some minor victory.
When I came across the recent panel decision in Quezada v. Marriott Hotel Services, I was struck by how frustrating the case must have been for the defense. We all receive invoices and liens in the course of litigating our cases that we simply do not have time to handle until the case in chief is wrapped up. That being said, it is crucial that we do not put off handling invoices for costs because, as the defendant in Quezada learned, this may very well result in the imposition of sanctions.
However, the more important takeaway from this case for me is not that we should timely pay our bills. Rather, it is that the defense community needs to be more selective in the appeals it decides to pursue. The WCAB is bogged down with appeals at the best of times, and I think we would all agree that these are far from the best of times. Learning to be strategic with when we appeal can go a long way in building goodwill not just with your clients, but with the Board as well.
In this case, the defendant was dealing with an invoice for $300 for interpreting services that escalated into multiple appeals and an assessment of sanctions. While it is certainly possible that the defendant did not receive the invoice the first time it was sent, I find it hard to believe that the cost of litigating the issues through two appeals was justified.
"We cannot ignore the fact that a significant amount of judicial resources has been allocated or, to put it bluntly, wasted because of defendant’s decision to seek reconsideration on an issue that was of minimal significance. Not only did defendant seek reconsideration twice, defendant also requested a hearing. The California Constitution vested the Legislature with plenary power to create a “complete system of workers’ compensation.” One goal of the workers’ compensation system is to “accomplish substantial justice in all cases expeditiously, inexpensively, and without encumbrance of any character.” (Cal. Const., art. XIV, § 4.) We note that all parties in a workers’ compensation proceeding have the responsibility to proceed expeditiously and to resolve any disputes informally when possible. The parties should only request the WCAB’s intervention when necessary. We believe this case did not need the WCAB’s intervention."