The Importance of Testimony at Trial
Post-Termination Defense Win (Escobar v. MBC Mattress): The Importance of Testimony at Trial
by Irina Geller and Jessie Zaylia
This case involved a 34 year-old mattress foundation assembler who alleged a cumulative trauma injury from 08/03/2014 to 08/03/2015 to multiple body parts. The applicant had several personnel issues, and he had been written up for tardiness, absences, and insubordination until he was finally terminated for cause on 08/03/2015. The employer’s first notice of the claim came a few days afterwards when the employer received a letter from the applicant’s attorney. He thereafter began medical treatment. The claim was denied by both co-defendants based on (1) there being a lack of evidence of any industrial injury and (2) a post-termination defense.
An employer investigation uncovered the fact that the applicant’s live-in girlfriend, who was employed by the same company, filed a workers’ compensation claim against the same employer. Additionally, at least three of her relatives—all working for the same employer— filed workers’ compensation claims.
During his deposition, the applicant testified that, while employed, he did not seek any medical treatment of any sort. He testified that he reported the alleged injuries to his supervisor, and he admitted to being aware of the workers’ compensation claims filed against the same employer by his girlfriend and her three relatives.
At trial, the defense raised several credibility issues regarding the applicant’s testimony:
- The applicant testified that, while employed, he had received massage therapy for his alleged injuries. During the cross-examination, the applicant was asked why this was never mentioned during his deposition, pointing at various places in the transcript where the applicant was specifically questioned regarding medical treatment.
- The applicant was then cross-examined regarding his girlfriend and her relatives all having filed claims against the same employer. The applicant was impeached with his deposition testimony when he testified that he was unaware of the fact that his girlfriend and her three family members had filed workers’ compensation claims against the same employer.
- The applicant’s credibility was further challenged when his supervisor took the stand and testified that the applicant had never reported or complained of any injury to him. Another witness for the employer also testified that it was a standard and customary procedure for the company to provide employees with a claim form at the time of claim reporting. This procedure was followed in the cases of the applicant’s girlfriend and her relatives. Had the applicant actually reported any industrial injuries, the employer would have followed the same process as is usually does.
Based on the testimony at trial and the evidence presented, the judge ruled that the defendant met its burden of proof on its post-termination defense, barring the applicant’s claim pursuant to the provisions of Labor Code section 3600(a)(10).