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No Grounds for Venue Changes

Court Upholds Sanctions for Frivolous Venue Change Motions:



The Appellate Division of the 3rd Judicial Department upheld the assessment of penalties against claimant attorneys in three separate cases for making groundless requests for a change of venue for proceedings before the Workers' Compensation Board.


Case: Banton v. New York City Department of Corrections, No. 516574; Wolfe v. New York City Department of Corrections, No. 516606, and Toledo v. New York City Administration for Children Services, No. 516883, 12/19/2013, published.


Facts: Lamont Banton, Richard Wolfe and Evelyn Toledo all allegedly suffered injuries in the course of their employment with various city agencies and separately filed claims for workers' compensation benefits.


Counsel for Banton and Wolfe then sought a change of venue to a location closer to counsel's office, relying upon a purported "Board Rule 10.01 (1) (c)," which counsel said required the Workers' Compensation Board to grant the request.


Counsel for Toledo also made a request for a change of venue.


Procedural History: In the Banton and Wolfe cases, a workers' compensation law judge ascertained that "Board Rule 10.01 (1) (c)" did not exist and assessed penalties against counsel.


In the Toledo case, a workers' compensation law judge denied the request for a change in venue based on a statement of general policy from the Chair of the Board, which provides that hearings are to be scheduled in the district where the claimant resides and venue change requests involving a municipal corporation "shall not be granted except to a district office where the employer is located."


The Workers' Compensation Board affirmed each of these orders, and the Board also imposed penalties against Toledo's attorney.


Analysis: The Appellate Division of the 3rd Judicial Department agreed that the penalties were warranted under Workers' Compensation Law Section 114-a (3) (ii).


The statute allows the Board to assess reasonable counsel fees against counsel where a proceeding before it has "been instituted or commenced without reasonable ground." Since counsel for the claimants had previously been warned that seeking a change of venue based upon the nonexistent "Board Rule" would subject her to sanctions, and she nevertheless elected to do so in each of the three cases, the Appellate Division said substantial evidence supported the Board's decision to sanction the attorney.


Disposition: Affirmed.


To read the decisions, click here, here and here.



Source: WorkCompCentral

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