Louisiana School Board Not Liable in Tort for Student’s Alleged Intentional Harm to Schoolteacher Receiving Workers’ Compensation

Recently, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal addressed an appeal by a school teacher who suffered injuries while working at her assigned school, in the Lafayette Parish School District.  This lawsuit centered on both workers’ compensation and tort issues following the battery of the teacher by a student known to have formerly presented disciplinary issues. The appellate court upheld the lower court’s judgment in favor of the school board, dismissing the plaintiff’s tort claims. In this case, Jenna Field, “Plaintiff,” worked as an English teacher at Northside High School. One of her students, Charles Benjamin, Jr., was attempting to leave the classroom in order to fight with another student in the hallway. As Plaintiff tried to block him by holding the door to the hallway closed, Mr. Benjamin repeatedly hit her in the stomach. He was arrested and charged with battery. Mr. Benjamin pled no contest. At the time of the battery, Plaintiff was six weeks pregnant. Her doctor had noted that she was bleeding after the incident but stated it may have been coincidental, since bleeding is not uncommon for pregnancies at that stage. Later, Plaintiff’s child was born with an injury to her kidney, determined to be congenital in nature.  Plaintiff received and continued at the time of the appeal to receive psychological treatment.

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Appellate Court Reverses Judgment Against Insurance Company Because Plaintiff Had Not Shown Defendant Driver was Uninsured/Underinsured According to Louisiana Law

In a recent appeal, the Louisiana Third Circuit reviewed whether a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit following a car accident had met her burden of showing the defendant driver was an uninsured/underinsured motorist. The burden remains on the plaintiff to present a prima facie showing of uninsured/underinsured coverage, and in this case, an affidavit by a rental car employee did not meet the evidentiary standard required to prove this status. The court reversed the trial court’s judgment against the automobile insurer and in favor of the plaintiff. The facts of this case centered on a car accident that took place at an intersection in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Mary King’s vehicle backed into Crystal Stephens’ vehicle. Both women had been driving a rental car. Safeway Insurance Co. of Louisiana had insured Ms. Stephens’ vehicle.

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Louisiana Court Upholds Workers’ Compensation Claim for Medical Expenses and Benefits on Behalf of Injured Individual, Based on Existence of Employment Relationship

In a recent workers’ compensation case, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal addressed whether an employment relationship existed between an injured individual and an owner of horse stalls who violated a lease agreement by leasing the stalls to an unlicensed trainer.  The accident victim had relied on the fact that she was covered by workers’ compensation when she agreed to exercise the horses. The court found that an employment relationship existed, and the employer and its insurer had not reasonably countered the evidence presented by the injured individual and had not articulated an objective reason for denying the benefits. On review, the court stated that findings of fact shall not be set aside unless there was a manifest error, or they were clearly wrong.   The facts of this case made clear that Jill Neece, the claimant, was injured while exercising horses at Evangeline Downs Training Center.  She filed an action for workers’ compensation benefits and also sought medical treatment and expenses, penalties, and attorney fees against Damien Scott, Scott Gelner, and the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (“FHBPA”). Ms. Neece began working at Evangeline Downs in late 2012 and then began galloping horses for Damien Simon in January 2013. On January 14, 2013, she was thrown from a two-year-old colt she was galloping for Mr. Simon. Ms. Neece suffered a back injury. Mr. Simon was not a licensed trainer and had his horses stalled at Evangeline Downs through a sublease agreement with Scott Gelner.  Mr. Gelner leased 10 stalls […]

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Louisiana Court Holds Automobile Insurance Policy for Temporary Substitute Vehicles Violates Public Policy Because it Places Burden on Car Owner to Have Vehicle Professionally Repaired

The Third Circuit Appeals Court recently addressed whether a clause in an automobile insurance liability policy contravened public policy. The clause defined a “temporary substitute vehicle,” which is a vehicle often used by the insured while the primary vehicle is under repair.  In this case, the issue was whether the specific requirement that the primary vehicle be serviced by a repair shop, rather than a home mechanic, denied coverage to those who could not afford to professionally service their vehicle. The reviewing court held that the definition violated public policy by “penalizing poverty” since not everyone can afford to take their car to the repair shop. Ryan LeGros’ car, a 1995 Honda Civic, became inoperable in September 2012.  He borrowed Louis Istre, Jr.’s 1995 Mercury Sable to travel to work on September 27, 2012. Two days later, while returning from work in Mr. Istre’s vehicle, Mr. LeGros rear-ended a vehicle driven by Sherry Benoit.  At the time of the accident, State Farm provided Mr. Istre’s automobile liability insurance. Safeway provided Mr. LeGros’ liability insurance.  The repairs to Mr. LeGros’ Honda Civic were completed on September 30, 2012. After the accident, Ms. Benoit made a claim for the damages that resulted from the accident. State Farm paid the damages and filed a Petition for Subrogation. They sought reimbursement from Safeway for the $2,253.07 in bodily injury and property damages that were paid to Ms. Benoit. They asserted that Safeway was the primary policy that covered the accident.

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