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A Greenhorn Faces Unforseen Consequences

A “war story” from the trenches of workers’
compensation practice

By Robert Owens, Esq.

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After Cal and law school, I started practice in Oxnard with my father in 1979. At first, I did all the workers' compensation cases. One of my first clients was Alonzo Ayala, who had hurt himself lifting in a fence post. For two decades Alonzo held the lofty position of ranch manager in Santa Paula and was provided ranch housing. I say "lofty" because Alonzo was something like a fifth generation Californian and also had Indian ancestors. Ranch housing was a serious privilege for Alonzo in the '70's.
 
For two decades Alonzo held the lofty position of ranch manager in Santa Paula and was provided ranch housing.
 
The workers' compensation insurance company for the ranch owner hired a prominent local partnership in Ventura, Peters and Juhl. Roger Peters was very amiable and experienced in the hallways of the local regional office. Peters convinced the judge that Alonzo was not an employee of the ranch owner. As a new lawyer still wet behind the ears, I did not even see the defense coming. The judge found Alonzo was the employee of another worker on the ranch. But this other worker did not have workers' compensation insurance.
 
As a new lawyer still wet behind the ears, I did not even see the defense coming.
 
However, I had recourse. California has the Uninsured Employers Fund, created by the Legislature in 1971 [renamed “Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund” 1/1/2004]. So starting over again and after another year or so, Alonzo and I finally perfected a judgment against the fund. Alonzo netted something like $18,000, a lot of money in those days.
 
Alonzo netted something like $18,000, a lot of money in those days.
 
A couple years later, I learned the end result of all this effort, other then my learning a legal lesson at the hands of Mr. Peters. After receiving his money, Alonzo went to a fortune teller in Santa Paula. The seer predicted a misfortune would befall him unless he gave her the money. Eager to avoid more trouble in his life, and steeped in beliefs that seers had occult powers, Alonzo gave her all his money.

I got used to the small fees that comp cases provided, but I’ve never got used to the surprises our clients provide us.
 
After receiving his money, Alonzo went to a fortune teller
 

Robert Alexis Owens has been practicing law since 1979. For the past 20 years he has devoted his practice to representing applicants in workers’ compensation cases

Owens & Stevenson, LLP
220 S. "A" Street, Suite 1
Oxnard, CA 93030
Tel.: (805) 483-1090
Fax: (805) 483-5446
Email: admirablebobaal@gmail.com

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