There is a backlog of workers’ compensation cases that Guam Department of Labor Director David Dell’Isola is now attempting to wade through.
“I’m doing the best that I can,” Dell’Isola said at the Superior Court of Guam late last month.
About one year ago, ongoing delays with a Workers' Compensation Commission case resulted in a court petition asking that the GDOL director and WCC be forced to hold a hearing.
Two weeks ago, Judge Elyze Iriarte ordered that a hearing be scheduled within 90 days. It came at the conclusion of a court hearing on Aug. 28.
Dell’Isola: High caseload exacerbates delays
At the time the petition was filed, the GDOL director was still Shirley Mabini. Dell’Isola has now inherited the case. The WCC falls under GDOL, and the director or his designee is the head of the commission by default.
“My name is not even on there,’ Dell’Isola said in court. “It’s still the previous director. And I have a backload of these cases that was never heard and I’m doing the best to judicially hear them and move forward and catch up with them.”
Another difficulty with hearing cases, according to Dell’Isola, is getting consistent representation from the Office of the Attorney General.
“I understand their workload is voluminous. With that, in the last six to eight months I’ve been in office, I have not been able to get my questions answered. I have not been able to move forward with a lot of these cases. They switch, they change – attorneys left and right – at no fault of their own,” the director said.
Dell’Isola said he was in the process of writing a request for proposals for an attorney to represent him so that he can move forward with workers’ compensation hearings.
The petition before Iriarte was filed in September 2018 by attorney John Bell, who filed on behalf of his client, Victor Zamora. Zamora, who worked to repair and maintain refrigerated shipping containers, developed a respiratory infection in August 2015 while working for Paul’s Roving Service Inc. Zamora initially received treatment, but compensation was terminated without any findings or explanation, according to the petition.
Bell, on Aug. 28, said the parties were having difficulty moving forward with a hearing for his client because there were never any administrative rules adopted regarding WCC hearings. Without clear rules, the hearing becomes a moving target, Bell said.
Director feels insulted; lawyer wants clarity
Dell’Isola agreed that administrative rules should be developed but said he did not have the manpower.
“I have two staff when I used to have 10," said Dell’Isola, who has served as GDOL director in years past.
Regardless, the WCC follows the regulations in the Guam Administrative Rules and Regulations and has been able to hold formal hearings, Dell’Isola added.
The director said he had asked for certain items to conduct the Zamora hearing but the parties – the employee, the workers’ compensation insurance company and their representatives – have not delivered.
In addition, Dell’Isola said Bell has insulted him and questioned his integrity.
“I have asked exactly what he’s asking from me. Instead, he insults me and he attacks me and my staff,” Dell’Isola added.
Bell said he had asked in advance how he would comply with hearing requirements and received no response.
“At least if I know in advance what the hearing is going to be or how I can get to that hearing, then at least we can get to that hearing so we can adjudicate,” Bell said.