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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Case Spotlight: Fee in Worker’s Compensation Case is Largest in Lawyer Referral and Information Service History


After several attorneys had told him his case was too hard to prove, a gravely injured industrial painter contacted BASF’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service (LRIS) hoping for a possible referral. Trained LRIS staff referred the man to Worker’s Compensation Panel attorney Sophie Breall.

For 17 years the client had worked as an industrial painter and was now suffering from a multitude of conditions, including membranousglomerulonephrites, kidney failure, pulmonary emboli, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. The client believed his conditions were due to on the job chemical exposure since the products used contained lead and workers often felt sick on the job. Breall was honest and up front with the client and his wife; it would be difficult to prove causality and they might not win but she was willing to move forward with the case.

Sophie BreallA qualified medical doctor reviewed the client’s records and determined that indeed, the principal cause of illness was lead and solvent exposure. Despite this finding, the insurance company and company defendant continued to deny the claim hoping that an expert toxicologist would render a different conclusion. After several additional experts garnered the same findings, the insurance company finally admitted liability; almost a year after the original claim had been filed. By this time the client’s health had rapidly declined, he had lost his medical insurance, and was in need of a liver transplant. Breall literally saved the client’s life when she was able to secure a liver specialist and internist to treat the client, and won a six-figure stipulated judgment award of 100% disability with open medical care for the rest of the client’s life.

The client’s health is improving but he will still need a kidney transplant in the future. Were it not for Breall’s compassion and desire to help against all odds, this client would not have received the coverage he was so rightly entitled to. He and his wife might have become homeless due to the cost of his medical treatment, but instead, the client will now have medical expenses covered for the rest of his life.
Although worker’s compensation cases often take a long time to conclude; involve extensive medical evaluation and expert testimony; and attorney’s fees are capped by statute, Breall finds the work tremendously rewarding and meaningful. LRIS is extremely proud to have Sophie Breall as a panel member and we congratulate her on this outstanding outcome.

LRIS receives nearly 50,000 calls annually from the public in need of legal representation. BASF’s LRIS is a State Bar Certified Referral Program and an ABA model referral service, well-known nationally for its outstanding legal assistance to the public. Refer with confidence those clients outside your practice area: 415-989-1616 or visit www.sfbar.org/lawyerreferrals.

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