Staff Bios



Thomas M. DeBenedetto – Attorney

Tom-DebendettoMr. DeBenedetto is a graduate of Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is also a graduate from the University Of San Diego School Of Law where he received the American Jurisprudence Award in the field of Comparative Law. Upon graduation and passing the State Bar of California, Mr. DeBenedetto immediately put out his “shingle” and began representing Injured Workers for the last 24 years. Mr. DeBenedetto has successfully litigated thousands of workers’ compensation cases from inception to completion. It is Mr. DeBenedetto’s firm belief that the current workers compensation laws are unfair and provide great profit to insurance carriers at the expense of the hard working people of The State of California. “Now more than ever, injured workers need aggressive representation to help them navigate the complexities of our workers compensation system.”


Donald G. Cline, Esq. – Of counsel

DON-KELLEYMr. Cline is a respected attorney with significant real world experience handling workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.  Over the last 40 years, Mr. Cline has worked for several reputable companies, as well as an insurance carrier and a prestigious San Diego law firm.  Mr. Cline has also served as a pro-tem judge on the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB), and taught several classes on workers’ compensation issues at Western State University and University of California, San Diego.
Mr. Cline’s time as a pro-tem judge on the WCAB has provided him with a unique perspective on workers’ compensation cases and valuable insight into the legal process.  In addition, Mr. Cline’s extensive experience representing injured workers, coupled with his responsibilities as a university instructor, makes him an effective advocate for his clients. Mr. Cline has received the California Applicant Attorney’s Lifetime achievement award.


Jerome Katsell – Attorney

Jerome KatsellMr. Katsell is a graduate of UC Berkeley and University of San Diego School of Law. He has been involved with workers’ compensation cases for the last 28 years on both defense and applicant sides. He is now a staunch advocate for applicants. Mr. Katsell assists in the preparation and handling of depositions of both injured workers and medical legal evaluators. Mr. Katsell was a professor of Russian Literature, is fluent in Russian, and is a professional translator from Russian to English.


Veronica Perez – Attorney

Veronica PerezMs. Perez is a contract attorney experienced in workers’ compensation having represented workers compensation insurance companies and injured workers in complex matters. She graduated from San Diego State University with a major in Liberal Arts/English Literature and subsequently obtained her JD from Western Sierra School of Law. Ms. Perez gained valuable experience as a deputy for the labor commissioner’s office, representative for EDD agency, criminal defense firm as well as family law issues by making special appearances for other attorneys.


Tony Harris – Attorney

Veronica PerezMr. Harris, originally from the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, attended Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. After graduating in 1992 with a degree in English Textual Studies, he worked as a volunteer for the Clinton presidential campaign. After the election, Mr. Harris moved West to attend California Western School of Law, where he earned his J.D. in 1997.

In 1997, Mr. Harris was admitted to The California State Bar and The California 9th District Court of Appeals. Upon being admitted, Mr. Harris began his own law practice, representing Applicants before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. In 2007, Mr. Harris was asked to manage the workers’ compensation practice of a boutique firm in San Diego. In March, 2011, he began work as an Associate Defense Attorney representing large insurance companies and employers from around the world. After practicing with two prestigious defense firms 6 years, Mr. Harris returned to his roots as an Applicant’s attorney in 2016.

Mr. Harris is married and has two sons. He fills his free time with his family, going surfing at the beach or skiing in the mountains. He is also a competitive home brewer and R/C sailplane pilot.


Barrance Q. Zakar – Attorney

Barrance Q. ZakarMr. Zakar grew up in The Bronx N.Y. He started working at the age of 12 as a shoeshine boy, making his own shoe shine box with the help of the older kids. He then held various jobs after school before going to City College in New York. In the college summer months he was a security guard at Rockefeller Center including at the NBC Studio door. He also managed a clothing store in Greenwich Village. He finished college in California at San Diego State with a degree in philosophy. Then he became a radio announcer in San Diego at KPRI, the first underground rock station in the area, then KGB and then KFSD. At KFSD Mr. Zakar at times hosted the San Diego Symphony Radio Broadcasts. Concurrently he went to law school and graduated from Western State in 1980. Mr. Zakar’s legal career includes 10 years with Industrial Indemnity, the largest Ca. private workers’ comp. insurance carrier at the time, where he was managing attorney of the San Diego office. He then was a lawyer with Stockwell Harris, one of the largest workers’ compensation defense firms in the country, where he became vice president. He now enjoys being a lawyer entirely on behalf of injured workers in contract with The Law Offices of Thomas DeBenedetto, Esq.


Michael Yap – Attorney

Michael YapMichael Yap graduated from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2016. While attending law school, Mr. Yap interned at the Law Offices of Thomas DeBenedetto where he was afforded the opportunity in assisting Attorney DeBenedetto in almost all aspects of a Workers’ Compensation case. During Law School, Mr. Yap also spent his weekends volunteering at Thomas Jefferson School of Law Employees Rights Self-Help Clinic. It was at the Clinic where Mr. Yap gained valuable experience in Employment and Labor issues. However, upon passing the bar, Mr. Yap continued his interest in Workers’ Compensation Law by becoming an Associate Attorney at The Law Offices of Thomas DeBenedetto.


Don Kelley – Senior Hearing Representative

DON-KELLEYMr. Kelley has spent his entire career working in the Workers Compensation arena. He started in the medical field of Workers Compensation from 1982-1989 with Trauma Medical Clinic. In 1990, Mr. Kelley was hired by the Law Office of Donald G. Cline as an Administrative Manager/Legal Assistant. He spent 24 Years with Mr. Cline overseeing 7,000 cases during his tenure. Now, with the Law Office of Thomas DeBenedetto, Mr. Kelley brings his 30 years of knowledge and experience regarding the workers compensation system. Mr. Kelley spends the vast majority of time at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board assisting Mr. DeBenedetto in all aspects of litigation.


Siobhan Flanagan – Office Manager / Human Resources

Siobhan FlanaganSiobhan Flanagan was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1989 and has since become a United States citizen.  She has worked in many areas of the legal field since 1989 and has been with The Law Office of Thomas DeBenedetto since its inception in 1992.  In addition to managing the firm, Siobhan is in charge of human resources, payroll and monitors and maintains employees benefit packages.


Erin Sandoval – Senior Paralegal

ErinErin Sandoval has worked with The Law Office of Thomas DeBenedetto since 2007.  She graduated in 2010 from the University of San Diego majoring in Paralegal Studies. Erin is fluent in Spanish and has solid knowledge of Workers Compensation Legal Terminology and State Law Procedures.  Erin assists in all aspects of each case from inception to completion. On her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children.


Lisette Linares – Paralegal

lisette-linaresIn May 2010, Lisette Linares graduated from John College of Criminal Justice with a Bachelor of Science degree in Forensic Psychology with a minor in Legal studies. Lisette then gravitated to the field of Workers’ Compensation and has worked in this area for several years before moving to California and continuing her passion for workers’ compensation assisting injured workers in all aspects of their case. Lisette has since completed the Paralegal Program at the University of San Diego, earning her Paralegal Certificate. Upon completion she entered into the role of Paralegal at the Law Offices of Thomas DeBenedetto. Lisette takes pride in her work and being able to help and guide injured workers. Lisette is also fluent in Spanish. On her time off, Lisette enjoys spending time with her family.


Cynthia Lopez – Senior Legal Assistant

cynthia_lopezCynthia Lopez jumped into the world of Workers Compensation 8 years ago as a Legal Assistant at the Law Offices of Donald G. Cline. With the knowledge she has gained in the Workers Compensation System, Cynthia loves to help injured workers. Cynthia attended a three month debate program at Stanford University, graduated with a degree in International Leadership from the University of Teramo in Italy and has attended various workshops throughout the world as a student of Universidad Mundial in Mexico. Cynthia is also fluent in Spanish


Laura Cross – Legal Assistant

laura_crossLaura Cross has spent her career in the Workers Compensation arena since 1980. She has been married for 31 years, has two children and one grandchild. Laura started her legal career with Attorney Earl Clampett, Jr., who is now a Judge. Laura was then hired in by the Law Offices of Donald G. Cline where she spent 22 years. She brings 34 years of workers compensation experience to the Law Office of Thomas M. DeBenedetto and has been with Mr. DeBenedetto’s office for many years.


Bianca Fregoso – Legal Assistant

Bianca FregosoBianca received her Accounting certificate in 2014 but gravitated towards Worker’s Compensation. She has been working in Workers Compensation for over four years starting with Defense and then moving to The Law Office of Thomas DeBenedetto representing injured workers. Bianca is also fluent in Spanish. On her time off she enjoys visiting state parks across the country.


Theresa Foster Caldwell – Legal Assistant / Medical Coordinator

Theresa Foster CaldwellTheresa Caldwell has been working in the workers’ compensation arena for over 23 years. She has established strong relationships within the physician community and with the insurance claims professionals. On a daily basis Theresa navigates the insurance companies’ complicated medical provider networks to find the appropriate medical specialist to treat our clients injuries. In addition, Theresa schedules these medical appointments and assists in providing medical records to the doctors as well as obtaining medical reports from the physicians.


Melyssa Figueroa – Legal Assistant / Med-Legal Coordinator

Melyssa FigueroaMelyssa Figueroa was born and raised in San Diego, California. She began her career in the Workers Compensation community in 2012 acting as a referrals coordinator to ensure injured workers were authorized and scheduled with appropriate specialists to move their cases forward and receive much needed care. She has since moved to The Law Offices of Thomas DeBenedetto wherein she continues to act as a coordinator for medical legal appointments. Melyssa is passionate in assisting injured workers navigate their way through the complicated system.


Israel Cosio – File Manager

Israel CosioIsrael Cosio graduated from San Diego State University with a dual degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology. Israel has been an integral part of transitioning our law firm into a paperless law firm creating a more efficient and productive law office. Israel has been with the firm for many years and began his legal career as a file clerk. He now oversees over 1,000 active files and is responsible for accurately organizing and filing all case documentation as well as maintaining all closed files.


Karla Ramirez – Receptionist

Karla RamirezKarla was Born and raised in San Diego, California. Karla began working with The Law Offices of Thomas DeBenedetto in 2017. She has over 10 years of customer service experience she gained working for a large global corporate office.

Karla is fluent in Spanish and loves to assist all of our clients with the help they need. In her spare time she is an experienced licensed Cosmetologist and Certified MUA.