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New Cases of Interest - March 12, 2012
Welch v. State Teachers Retirement System (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 1. A teacher made an application for disability benefits which CalSTRS denied. An administrative law judge upheld the CalSTRS decision as did the superior court in an administrative mandamus proceeding. While the trial court found that the teacher/applicant was misled in a telephone conversation she had with a CalSTRS representative about the eligibility requirements for disability, the trial court also determined that this did not qualify her for relief from the late filing of her application. The teacher had been attacked by a group of students in October of 1998, but had less than five years of service credit at the time of the attack. She did not apply for retirement benefits until 2005 when she learned that she did not need five years of service credit. The misinformation regarding the five years of service credit had come from a telephone representative of CalSTRS in January or February of 1999.
The court of appeal reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded the case to the trial court with directions, instructing the trial court to remand the matter to CalSTRS to decide whether to exercise its administrative power under Education Code §22308 to relieve the teacher from the consequences of her late filed application. The court of appeal held that the trial court failed to recognize that the misinformation which the teacher received from CalSTRS deprived the teacher of a reasonable opportunity to develop contemporaneous evidence of her disability, and that if she had received the correct information, she might have been able to prove that she was disabled at the time, something she was not able to convince the trial court of many years later.