Ketan Soni Gives Presentation On “Zoom Mediations and Practice Tips”

By Barry Jennings 

On Thursday, May 28, 2020, the NCBA Workers’ Compensation Section hosted an informal discussion regarding the use of the Zoom videoconference platform in the mediation environment. Ketan Soni, partner with Soni Brendle, PLLC in Charlotte, presented on the general use of Zoom, provided tips on how to adjust your settings to most effectively use the platform and offered guidance on how to be successful during the mediation process. It was a jam-packed presentation and should be useful to our practices as we grow more accustomed to using video conferences daily!

You can view another helpful video that Ketan recorded here. In this video, Ketan further highlights the tips he covered in his presentation.

 

Public Access to Deputy Commissioner Hearings Via Webex

By Eleasa Harris Allen

As you know, beginning this month, most Deputy Commissioner hearings will be conducted remotely via Webex. There is currently no indication as to when in-person hearings will resume, and it is safe to assume that we may be conducting remote hearings for at least the next several months.

To allow the public access to Deputy Commissioner hearings, the Industrial Commission has added a new Webex Hearing Links page to its website. Through this page, the public can view the Deputy Commissioner hearings from a computer or mobile device. Instructions for how to access the Webex hearings can be found here. The links on this webpage should not be used by the parties and witnesses participating in a hearing. Rather, those individuals must join the remote hearing through a link received via email.

Considering that, at least in the short-term, remote hearings via Webex are our “new normal,” and if you are curious about the process or anticipate having a hearing in the next few months, you may want to access and observe a June Webex hearing. It will give you an opportunity to see how the process will work and help you prepare for your own future hearings.

NCIC Mediation Policy Update as of June 1, 2020

On May 30, 2020, the Industrial Commission issued an update to its mediation policies effective June 1, 2020. The updated policies are below:

May 30, 2020 Update: Industrial Commission Mediation Policies as of June 1, 2020

Consistent with current directives and recommendations as detailed below, as of June 1, 2020, mediations in Industrial Commission cases may be conducted either in person or remotely by consent, though mediators have been advised by the Dispute Resolution Commission that mediations shall, to the fullest extent possible, be conducted remotely.

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Hearing Update from the North Carolina Industrial Commission

Update from the North Carolina Industrial Commission

Deputy Commissioner Hearings (Non-Medical Motion Hearings) will resume in June 2020 via Webex. Below is information from the Industrial Commission’s website concerning the current policies/procedures for these hearings:

The Commission is pleased to announce that Deputy Commissioners will resume hearing all types of workers’ compensation cases in June 2020 through the use of Webex technology. This policy is consistent with Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s May 21, 2020 Order directing judicial officials to “make use of remote hearing technology to the greatest extent possible to limit in-person appearances” and will help prevent a future backlog of Deputy Commissioner cases.

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NCIC COVID-19 Hearing & Mediation Updates

By Eleasa Allen

Update from the North Carolina Industrial Commission

The Industrial Commission has issued the following policies for Full Commission hearings, Deputy Commissioner medical motion hearings, and Executive Secretary’s Office informal hearings, which have been posted to the NCIC website. These policies are effective June 1, 2020. Policies for Deputy Commissioner hearings (non-medical motion hearings) and mediations to be held as of June 1, 2020 will be announced shortly.

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Getting Your Thoughts on Zoom

By Barry Jennings 

On May 28, 2020, at 4 p.m., the NCBA Workers’ Compensation Section is hosting a free brief presentation/informal discussion and social hour on the topic of “Zoom” mediations. Ketan Soni will be giving a brief presentation on video conference mediations and the Zoom application. Ketan is an attorney in the Charlotte area whose practice focuses on mediations and family law. Ketan has a special interest in technology in the legal world and has developed substantial acumen in video conference mediations.

In preparation for this meeting, we are posting below a brief survey regarding Zoom mediations. We welcome the Section’s feedback to help focus the discussion and make it as worthwhile as possible for all in attendance. We look forward to seeing everyone then!

Click here to take the survey!

A Message from the Chair

By Eleasa Allen

On Thursday, May 7, the Workers’ Compensation Section Council held its last quarterly meeting of the 2019-2020 Bar Year. Due to the ongoing public health situation, the meeting was held remotely via Zoom and telephone call-in, which as anyone who has participated in a multi-person virtual conference can confirm, was interesting, to say the least.

Although my term as Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section is not yet over, it is nearing its end, which allows me to indulge in a bit of reflection. At the beginning of the Bar Year, my goals for the Section included providing quality continuing legal education opportunities, identifying a pro bono project for the Section to support, and creating numerous social/networking opportunities for our members. We were able to coordinate two social/networking opportunities in the first two-thirds of the Bar Year, but the recent public health concerns impacted our ability to move forward with our third event, a baseball game at the Greensboro Grasshoppers in late April. I am certainly disappointed that this event had to be canceled, but my sincere hope is that this will be rescheduled next spring. I look forward to enjoying baseball and beer with my colleagues in the Section.

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Virtual Mediations

By Kate Deiter-Maradei

Right now, the NCIC has mandated that all mediations must be conducted virtually until June 1, 2020. This time frame could change, so it is important to stay apprised of any changes reflected on both the NCIC website and the NC DRC website. In-person mediations are the most effective particularly when parties are navigating thorny legal or emotional issues. However, I have been thrilled to have the ability to conduct virtual mediations via the Zoom web conferencing platform, and they have gone very well. It really is the next best option to an in-person conference because you can still read facial expressions and body language, which is so important in a mediation.

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North Carolina Industrial Commission April 2020 Quarterly Update

Full Commission Section and General / Administrative Updates

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission has instituted several new policies to help protect public health and safety, including new policies for hearings and mediations and new policies for accepting electronic signatures on agreements and accepting written affirmations without notarization. These new policies are posted on the home page of the Commission’s website and under the Latest News tab (Breaking News & Important Announcements).
  • Attorneys also can visit the Commission’s website to review additional COVID-19 Response postings addressing issues such as telehealth coverage and billing, secure leave issues, and the best way to reach Commission staff during this period of time when staff is working remotely to the greatest extent possible.
  • All Full Commission oral arguments are being conducted by teleconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Full Commission panel chair is providing the parties with a toll-free number and access code to dial into the conference call. All oral arguments that are normally recorded continue to be recorded by a court reporter.
  • A notice of proposed rulemaking by the Commission was published in the April 15, 2020 North Carolina Register. A link to the notice of proposed rulemaking can be found at https://www.ic.nc.gov/efilingandotheramendments.html. A public hearing on the proposed rule amendments will be held on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 2 p.m. Out of an abundance of caution and to address protective measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the public hearing will be held via teleconference only instead of being held in person. The teleconference number is 1-888-363-4735 and the access code is 4465746. Comments may be submitted through June 15, 2020 to Gina Cammarano, Rulemaking Coordinator, by email at gina.cammarano@ic.nc.gov or by U.S. mail at 1240 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1240.
  • Industrial Commission employees are presently working remotely to the greatest extent possible. The Commission remains open for business but encourages you to contact Commission staff by email instead of by phone. Commission employees working remotely have easy and quick access to their email inbox on their laptops and other devices. By contrast, they do not have real time access to office phone calls when working remotely. Email addresses can be found by going under the “Sections” tab on the Commission’s Home Page and clicking on the appropriate section of the Commission.

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Update on Pro Bono Efforts

Mallory Lidaka

Samantha Aktug

By Mallory Lidaka and Samantha Aktug

Hello Section Members!  We hope everyone is staying healthy (and sane!) during these uncertain times. We want to first thank everyone for participating in our initial Pro Bono effort for the year during the Annual Conference in February. Free Legal Answers participation has grown since that time, and we are so happy that our Section’s participation helped to increase those registration numbers. We continue to encourage our Members to register and/or log-in to Free Legal Answers to continue to provide Pro Bono legal services to the community.

Although we cannot schedule in-person events at this time, we would love to find a way for our Members to remain engaged in our Pro Bono goals for this year even while everyone is working remotely. Please look out for more information to come from the Pro Bono Subcommittee about Pro Bono events in which you can participate. Also, if you have identified a Pro Bono need or idea in which you think our Members would enjoy participating, please do not hesitate to contact Mallory Lidaka (mel@lewis-roberts.com) or Samantha Aktug (sca@egertonlaw.com). Thank you again for your continuing support of our Section.