San Diego CA, August 3, 2014
Everything began on July 19, 2005. I found an ad in the newspaper offering work replacing roofs, with the potential to earn between $100,000 and $200,000 per year. I called and asked for Greg Johnson. He gave me an interview appointment with the company, and he hired me on the spot.
He told me that I would be working Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, and on Saturdays from 10 to 4. He trained me for more than two weeks, taking me to houses to measure roofs and do estimates for roof replacements. He told me that he would be paying me for the training, and then he would be sending me out to do the work alone. He would then pay me a 50% commission on the contract value of the job.
The third week, I began working. Greg sent me out to 11 customers for whom I did estimates. On August 17, 2005, I had two contracts: Mr. Les Cuestra, telephone (619) 248-4623, 8603 Eileen Street, Spring Valley CA — and Seth Venskus, telephone (760) 815-4515, 337 Morgan Place, Vista CA 92083.
First, I had a 2:00 appointment, on August 17, 2005, I had an appointment with Ruth Kochoff, at the place where I had the accident, 2850 Pio Pico Drive, Suite D, Carlsbad, CA. I spoke with Mrs. Ruth Kochoff and she told me to climb onto the roof, and do the measuring, and make the estimate. I began to do the measurement. I climbed up the side of the building suing a ladder that I carried with me, when, having measured most of the area, there remained a large skylight. There were a lot of air conditioning pipes and loose shingles. I stumbled on the pipes and shingles, and in a few seconds I fell through the skylight, into the hallway of the floor below. I fell on my hip, breaking my right hip and femur, and my left knee, while dislocating my spine. From there, they called an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital at Tri-Cities Medical Center.
In the hospital, Dr. Christian Bently operated on me. While in the hospital, I called Greg Johnson to tell him what happened. He told me not to worry, that he would give me $1,000 per week until I had recovered. When I got out of the hospital, I went to the company to collect my $1,000, but they wanted me to sign a form that said I was an independent contractor and I did not have insurance. They wanted me to sign that paper before they would give me the check.
The office of the attorney Kenneth Knobrook was in the same building where I fell, and I hired him in 2005. He was very good friends with the attorney Jack Wooten and the only thing he did was to offer me $5,000 first, then $10,600 without filing the case with the Workers’ Compensation court.
One day we argued intensely, he called me stupid, and he dropped the case. Later they recommended the attorney Philip Cohen to my wife, and I hired him on March 10, 2006. He sent me to Dr. Hamed Khalid, and at every appointment from the outset he recommended that I have an operation to have the metal removed. The only thing he did was to give me medication: Hydrocodone, Tizanidine, Naproxen, Zolpidem, Sertraline, Omeprazole.
As I was not receiving benefits, we were evicted from our apartment, and we went for several weeks sleeping in our car – my wife and I and our two children. Eventually my sister-in-law let us stay with her. We spent several years sleeping on her floor while I awaited benefits. We applied for government aid, but they only gave us food stamps. The social worker did not believe that we lived there, despite coming to see us there. My sister only allowed us to stay in the hopes of getting money from us when the case settled. Ultimately she got tired of waiting, and we were out in the streets again
We had no place to go, and we were in desperate straits, as it seemed that my case would never end. We then went to stay with another of my sisters in Los Angeles, July of 2011. She rented us a garage and we paid her $500 per month plus $150 for food.
I borrowed money from friends and family, but what little they loaned me I gave to my sister-in-law and to my sister in Los Angeles. Finally we were no longer welcome at my sister’s house, as she was asking for more rent. This was August 2012, and I begged for another week’s time to get the money. We argued, she began to throw our belongings into the street, and ended up calling the police. She wanted us out of there immediately. Once again, we had nowhere to go.
We went to a Catholic Church where they were able to help us with a month’s rent in a place that we found a week after being thrown out.
The trial began in February 2012 with Judge Udkavich. He promptly retired, transferring the case to Judge Rick Rosa. Before leaving, Judge Udkavich brought Judge Rosa up to date on the what we had been working out. He had told both attorneys that I they had better consider me an employee, because if they did not, they would open up a bucket of worms. The attorney told the judge that he would consult with his boss and respond the next hearing date, as the case had been continued.
The judge told me that I would receive benefits six months later, but almost three years have gone by, and I am not now considered to have been an employee. During that time, however, Judge Rosa led me to believe that he considered me an employee. He told my attorney that he [the attorney] did not appear to be doing anything, and that he [the judge] could not be both judge and attorney in my case.
My attorney neither objected nor spoke on my behalf. In April 2013, my attorney tried to drop the case, lying to Judge Levy that I had fired him. I told that judge that I had not fired him [the attorney]. Judge Levy then ordered the attorney not to abandon my case — he had to finish it. The judge also said that he understood why I had no confidence in him [the attorney].
The judge and my attorney had a heated discussion about this. Finally my case was heard on March 18, 2014. The judge had 90 days to render his verdict. At the end of the 90 days, he decided that I was not an employee after all. I received the notice on June 12, 2014, and I called my attorney to submit my appeal. He said that yes, he was going to do it, but after three weeks had passed and he had not done anything, I went to the court and did it myself.
Bryce Johnson told me that I had to do it that day, June 26, 2014, because I only had 20 days, but I had to fire my attorney at that time because I knew that he [my attorney] would not do anything. So I filed the papers for reconsideration of the decision, I mailed out letters that same day to all the parties involved.
My attorney called me and left a message telling me that my appeal was completely without merit. He offered to represent me again, but I don’t trust him any longer.
It took my lawyer nearly seven years to put my case to trial and during that period of time, he took my case off the calendar for nearly a year after moving my case from judge to judge. I have been totally affected in my body with all the metal implants still in my hip and femur to this day. I also have stomach problems from the medicines. I am mentally damaged with depression and stress and so are my kids and wife as well because of this situation. I please ask you desperately to take a close look at my case and see that there is corruption and discrimination between the lawyers and judges involved in this case. At this moment the case is on appeal for reconsideration in the San Francisco court I have contacted nearly every workers compensation lawyer in San Diego and no one wants to take my case.
I have contacted the organization called Employee Rights Center and they helped me with this letter and they are going to put this letter on their website. Please look at all the evidence in my favor that was not taken into consideration by the judge and my lawyer after putting me into a false sense of security telling me I had a guaranteed won case.
Thank you for taking the time to look at this and helping me set this situation right. You can also contact me through San Diego Employee Rights Center or my email firstname.lastname@example.org
*This was published in full at the request of Mr. Barragan to get the word out about his case.