Real 'BIG' news WTS sued biggie worker compensation

by DannyHaszard 210 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Curious Mind
    Curious Mind


    I can only answer your first question. The other question is too US specific for me.

    (1) Is it more difficult to get the ruling of a Judge overturned than it is to win the judgement in the first place? I don't care about your imaginative musings of more factors that are not in evidence at this point, just a yes or no will suffice.

    There is no yes or no answer - it depends. First you have to win the right of appeal - you can't appeal because you don't like the result.

    In Adminstrative law (Tribunal, Federal then High Court) - there must be an error either in fact or of law. In Tribunal's (the first decison maker) it must be an error of fact - ie: the Judge failed to consider a fact of the case that may have resulted in a different decision or of law (Merits Review). In Courts (access only after a decision and appeal to the tribunal) it must be an error in law (Jurisdictional error) so if the Judge erred in deciding that the appealant was a 'worker' there could be an appeal - the decision can not be substituted by the Court, the Court can send it back to the Tribunal (sometimes with instructions) for the Tribunal to reconsider or remake their decision.

    In Tort or Crim law (Magistrate, Supreme then High Court) - error can be in fact or error, but again there must have been a fault in the original decision, this is where counsel objections become important - if you object to a point of law and object then you have a better chance if you loose to make an appeal. If you failed to object you have 'agreed' with the point and cannot appeal on that ground.

    Also Judges may allow an appeal to explore a legal question if a precendent doesn't exist or if there is a precendent, it's very old and time to check the legality (if you like) of the question. This is usually only for the Highest Court to decide.

    In my area of law - Immigration - At the High Court level the Government (Dept of Immigration) wins about 95% of the time. Appealants are usually more successful in Tribunals (Refugee Review Tribunal or The Administrative Appeals Tribunal) than in Courts.

    Hope this helps


  • West70


    You are correct that the WBTS has an impressive appellate record, and they certainly have an impressive Legal Dept, but in recent years much of this is due to "picking their fights".

    Legal certainly did NOT pick this fight. IMO, having a Bethelite going in front of a NY State WCL Judge was probably their "worst nightmare".

    The fundamental purpose of WC laws is to make certain that injured "workers" are cared for and not pushed to the side by their "employer". The WC system goes to great lengths to bring an injured person under this umbrella. However, certain "volunteers" have typically been excluded by both law and interpretation. In this instance, we have a Judge and/or a fact situation which appears (from the news article) to get around that exclusion.

    Unless this ruling is completely and totally negated, it is possible that some Bethelites may hereafter fall under WC. If so, as I have already stated, this will likely have an unsettling impact on the relationship between the FDS and its "slaves"; an impact which could seep down into the lower levels.

    I believe the WBTS knows this, and will not take any chances that such will happen. They will all they can in this instance (less available in a WC fight than in other legal fights), but if any gap is left open, they will dump even more staffers to eliminate such gap.

  • AuldSoul


    Thank you for your post. It was very informative of the process the Watchtower Society has ahead of them to get this ruling appealed. Let me see if I can summarize what your wrote fairly:

    It would always be more difficult to get a ruling overturned than to win the judgement in your favor on the first attempt, because (1) doing so requires acquiring the right to appeal, and once acquired (2) requires arguing the point of appeal so successfully that the standing judgement is overturned.

    Whereas, in the initial hearing all that would be required is to get the Judge to side in favor of your argument in the case at hand.

    Have I summarized this correctly? There is no doubt in my mind they will try to appeal this issue. I am not sure they will even get an appeal heard, much less see an overturned judgement, in this matter. That was my point to Oroborus. Once a judgement is rendered against you, you have an uphill battle to fight the rest of the way. They have a chance of winning on appeal, but their odds are not as good as they were before the initial trier of facts.


  • jgnat

    Keep in mind this judgement is retroactive. Even Bethelites sent home can apply for compensation for past injuries, if their duties were largely secular while at Bethel.

    And, the WTBTS may be required to insure their full staff complement. That is an expense well beyond the $400 monthly from this single claimant.

  • skeeter1

    First of all, I'd hope the claimant finds better health.

    I agree with Auldsoul, and I agree with Eduardo. Eduardo is right about whether or not the journalist got it right. Journalists make mistakes too. We will not know what was said until we see a ruling or the court documents. However, Auldsoul is right about the fact that the judge probably considered both sides. When you read a judge's opinion, you are likely reading alot of what the winning side argued as well as, ocassionally, a refuting of the losing argument. So, the statement that Ms. Upton was a secular worker probably means that the judge looked at the other side. You have the read the statement, and read between the lines to determine what both sides probably argued. But, this is all conjecture until we see the final ruling or the transcripts, if those are even available in this case.

    I found the following legal information on the New York's web page. In lieu to monthly payments, the ex-worker may select a lump sum payment representing their lifelong injuries and damages. Even this lump sum payment can be reexamined if the situation changes. Here, Ms. Upton had spinal damage. I'm no medical expert, but "spinal" damage sounds permanent. It's not a pimple!

    Lump Sum Settlement:

    (WCB) A negotiated and Board-approved agreement, termed a "non-schedule adjustment," between a claimant with a non-schedule permanent partial disability and the insurer(s). As a result of the agreement the claimant receives a sum of money representing all future compensation for his/her disability, and the case is considered closed. Under WCL Section 15(5-b), granting of a settlement by the Board requires that (a) the right to compensation has been established and compensation has been paidfor at least three months, (b) the continuance of disability and of future earning capacity cannot be ascertained with reasonable certainty, (c) there has been a physical examination of the claimant prior to approval, and (d) the Board considers the settlement "fair and in the best interest of the claimant." In practice, lump sum settlements are usually final, but the law provides for reopenings if the Board finds that there has been a change in condition or degree of disability not contemplated at the time of the settlement.
  • Dogpatch

    After reading all the posts I tend to side with Eduardo on the likelihood of this causing them big trouble. It appears to be an odd judgment that may be overturned, but time will tell. As yet they have not been guilty of "breaking the law," but it could force some new precedents depending on how legitimate it is in court. But the very fact that from now on they COULD act in this matter as self-insured if they desire kind of protects them from future big losses. I still hope to see the 2-witness rule and the molestation issues become their biggest nightmare, as they are REALLY and PERSONALLY responsible for this disgusting policy and need to be called to account.

    Just my 2 cents. But the legal world is unfamiliar to most of us. My attorney has shed light on many things I couldn't know as a layman, even in the Quotes case.

    Randy Watters

    Net Soup!

  • Gerard
    It CAN'T be settled after the ruling is made. >AuldSoul

    Thank you for that info! Then this incident does make a notable precedent. The fact that this injury has nothing to do with religious doctrine is indeed very promissing.

  • West70


    You state:

    "But the very fact that from now on they COULD act in this matter as self-insured if they desire kind of protects them from future big losses."

    PLEASE EXPLAIN your reasoning.

    Do you think that a business that "self-insures" its' WC exposures has less exposure to "future big losses" than do businesses who purchase WC insurance from multi-national Insurance conglomerates?

    I would really like the answer to that one; as would 90% of the businesses in the U.S.

  • observador

    David_10 said:
    "Very interesting post, West. And I hope you're right. When this thread started, I thought that FINALLY, the Society's Achilles' Heel has been exposed and they are as good as ruined. (Well, hurt real bad, anyway.) But after reading Eduardo's take on it, I have my doubts."

    David, this is a discussion board, where people express a host of different sentiments. Some people joke, some people cry, some people clarify, and some people express HOPE that this will bring the WT to account.
    The news article itself makes it clear that the WT intends to appeal the decision. In an appeals court ANYTHING can happen, including the claimant losing the case.
    That's why, in my opinion, people here have expressed more hope than anything else. Think about it: how many times before has a bethelite dragged the WT, the all-powerfull instrument God is using, to a Workman's Comp board and WON at that instance? That's why people's hopes are high. That's how we should view it.


  • Gerard

    I found this info regarding worker's compensation & Churches:

      Workers' Compensation—

    Volunteers as Employees for Workers’ Comp

    The question regarding Volunteers often arises:
    Which volunteers qualify as an “employee” for purposes of Workers’ Compensation?

    The following clarifies some of the issues and there may be other factors as well.

    1) States vary in how broadly they interpret the definition of an employee. For a volunteer to obtain statutory benefits they need to be recognized as an employee under the specific state’s statutes. Some states are silent on this issue and others are not. Some states only recognize public volunteers as eligible for comp, such as volunteer firefighters. Many times the question will need to be “litigated” and the administrative agency or courts will make a ruling based on the facts of the particular case. You may not be able to change the status of a worker simply by agreeing to do so.

    2) The second issue is whether the volunteer can be considered an independent contractor, rather than an employee. Usually the right to control the individual in the performance of a job is the determining factor, but there are several other factors that must be considered. For example, whether on not the worker is engaged in a distinct occupation or business, or whether the work is also performed for others or involves the kind of work that is usually done by independent contractors. The length of time involved may also be considered. For example, if a volunteer spends an hour of time at the church on one occasion to cut the lawn while the staff custodian is on vacation, it is likely that they will not be considered an employee. However, if a party who is not an independent maintenance contractor does ground maintenance and custodial work for the church on a regularly scheduled ongoing basis they might be considered an employee (i.e., Staff Custodian), even if they are not being paid. As you can see, it often depends on multiple factors.

    3) One test that is gaining popular acceptance is the specific nature of the work in relation to the regular business of the employer. If the work is an integral part of the business operation, and is directed and controlled by the insured, they are more likely to be considered an employee. Many states exempt work that is casual (brief and irregular) and different in nature from the work regularly done by the business. Another way to look at this is whether they are performing an essential job function that would otherwise be performed by a paid staff person or regular employee. An example would be the group of volunteers that stop by on Saturday to give the church a new coat of paint. Most jurisdictions would likely reject such claims under Workers' Compensation. However, the church’s regular Secretary, who happens to be a volunteer, would likely be seen as an employee. Likewise, volunteer Camp Directors are usually considered to be employees.

    Since states vary in how broadly they apply these tests, it is important to research the law in the specific jurisdiction. Often these issues must be determined by litigation or hearing. In questionable cases the claims are routinely denied and the administrative agency or court must decide the matter.

    To reduce ambiguity about the intent of the Volunteers as Employees Endorsement, the Insurance Board’s insurance package contains a clarification that is in keeping with the popular “test” described in item 3 above. Understanding that it is subject to State interpretation, we endorse use of the following definition of Volunteers as Employees for the purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Coverage: Volunteer - Any non-compensated natural person while that person is subject to your (church) direction and control while performing essential employment functions/duties otherwise performed by paid staff or regular employees. Independent sub-contractors are specifically excluded.

    Return to Workers' Compensation

    For additional information e-mail us at Insurance Board or call us at (301) 990-3500 or (800) 437-8830.

    This information is intended to facilitate your understanding of the insurance program available through the UCCIB. It does not replace or supersede the insurance contract and does not include all of the benefits and limitations found in specific policies.

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