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Louisiana Court Holds Injured Welder is “Seaman” Under Jones Act Because Connection to Fleet of Vessels was Substantial in Duration and Nature

The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently addressed an appeal in a maritime injury dispute following an accident that injured a welder working on a floating mat for a construction project. The injured plaintiff in this case was awarded over three million dollars, and liability was imposed upon his employer.  At issue on appeal was whether the court properly found he had seaman status under the Jones Act, and whether the award of general damages was an abuse of discretion. Ernest Lee Guidry, the plaintiff, worked as a welder for Tanner Services, LLC, the defendant, for over two years.  Mr. Guidry had been assigned a project in Grand Isle and was working in the marine division for this particular project.  Three barges and two tugboats were used as “floating docks” for a crane and to prepare for welding. Mr. Guidry spent most of his time on the floating mat, which was a large piece of wood that was much like a raft in the water.  A vibrating hammer fell and struck Mr. Guidry while he was welding piles on the floating mat. He endured multiple injuries and underwent several surgeries after the accident, including a crushed foot, the amputation of four fingers, herniated discs, a concussion, post-traumatic stress, and total and permanent disability.

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Louisiana Court Finds Plaintiff Pedestrian 70% at Fault for Injuries For Failing to Look Where He was Going, Amends Jury’s Damages Award to Reflect Severity of Injuries

Recently, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal addressed whether the jury erred in their determination of fault and damages in a personal injury lawsuit following a motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff pedestrian in this case was found to be at fault for failing to meet his duty of care in observing traffic and yielding to vehicles on the road. Upon an examination of the record, the appellate court upheld the fault allocation but increased the general damages award for past and future pain and suffering. Wilson Jolivette left his place of employment in New Iberia, Louisiana by foot and waited near Louisiana Highway 90 for his nephew, who often brought Mr. Jolivette to and from work.  At the same time, Ray Hebert, working for Hanagriff’s Machine Shop, Inc., was driving the shop’s 2005 two-ton flatbed diesel-engine truck. Mr. Jolivette’s hand collided with the driver’s side mirror of Mr. Hebert’s truck, causing Mr. Jolivette to spin. He fractured his left ankle and wrist. Mr. Jolivette filed a petition for damages, and after a two-day jury trial, the jury found that Mr. Hebert was 30% at fault, and Mr. Jolivette was 70% at fault for causing the accident.  The jury then awarded Mr. Jolivette $10,000 for physical pain and suffering, both past and future. They awarded $36,000 for past medical expenses and $8,600 for past loss of earnings, totaling $54,000 in damages. Mr. Jolivette alleged that the jury erred in their assessment of fault and general and special damages awards.

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Appellate Court Upholds Award of Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Penalties Against Employer When Benefits Were Wrongly Discontinued

In a recent workers’ compensation case, the Louisiana First Circuit reviewed a case involving allegations that an employee had not met his burden of showing he was temporarily and totally disabled. The appellate court reviewed the evidence demonstrating disability and found that not only had the employee met his burden, but also his employer had wrongfully terminated his benefits. The material facts indicated that Bobby L. Davis, 55 years old, was driving a tractor with a trailer attached up a New Orleans levee. Mr. Davis worked as a laborer for New Environmental Systems, LLC.  The tractor began to roll over, and he was forced to dismount, jumping from the vehicle. Mr. Davis assisted other employees in lifting the tractor and the attached trailer, which was positioned sideways on the bottom of the levee. Mr. Davis did not return to work and received workers’ compensation medical and temporary, total disability (TTD) benefits. About a month later, Mr. Davis’ employer filed a disputed claim for compensation on the grounds that Mr. Davis had misrepresented his alleged workplace accident to doctors and that his version of the events was inconsistent with other witnesses. Mr. Davis answered, insisting that he suffered a compensable injury.  He eventually filed a disputed claim for compensation, seeking to determine his disability status, to reinstate his TTD benefits, and to authorize medical treatment by a doctor of his choice.

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Louisiana Appeals Court Finds Professional Liability Insurance Policy Ambiguous and Holds in Favor of Injured Deputy Sheriff on Negligence Claims

The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal recently addressed an insurance coverage dispute in a personal injury lawsuit following a work-related injury suffered by a deputy sheriff while supervising trustee inmates. At issue in the case were the extent of liability coverage and ambiguities in the insurance policy exclusions and definitions. Plaintiff Jackie Doucet worked as a deputy sheriff for the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Department and the Evangeline Parish Sheriff.  He was injured while watching inmates at an automobile repair shop. Mr. Doucet attempted to sit in a chair and it collapsed, causing him to fall to the floor and suffer injuries to his right arm and shoulder. Mr. Doucet received continuing medical treatment and surgical procedures for his injuries. The Sheriff’s Department paid him his full salary and employment benefits, despite his inability to work. The Department also paid for his medical expenses and medical insurance premiums. After being advised that his compensation and benefits would terminate, Mr. Doucet brought a lawsuit, together with his wife’s loss of consortium claim. The Sheriff and the Sheriff’s Department were named defendants, as was the insurance company for the Sheriff’s Department.  The trial court held that the insurance policy at issue in this case was the “Police Professional Lability Policy.” The trial court found that there were ambiguities in the Policy and denied the insurer’s exceptions and motion for summary judgment. The insurance company appealed.

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