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Louisiana Appellate Court Finds Trial Court Erred in Making Credibility Determination, and Questions of Material Fact Existed Regarding Driver’s Liability in Single-Car Accident

In a recent personal injury lawsuit following a car accident in downtown New Orleans, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a driver and her automobile insurance company following a single-car accident.  The appellate court found that the trial court had improperly made a credibility determination when reviewing the summary judgment motion, and this error required reversal. Plaintiffs Dana Williams and Derrick Sykes were passengers in Eileen Maldonado’s vehicle when she drove through an excavated portion of a street in downtown New Orleans.  At about 10:30 p.m., as Ms. Maldonado drove through the intersection of Elks Place and Cleveland Avenue, the passenger side of her car fell into the excavated portion of the street. The plaintiffs alleged that Archer Western Construction, the company that was excavating the site, or Ms. Maldonado caused the accident. Mr. Sykes settled with Archer Western. Ms. Maldonado and Imperial, her car insurer, moved for summary judgment. They asked that the plaintiffs’ claims be dismissed on the ground that there was no genuine issue of material fact that Ms. Maldonado was without fault.  The trial court granted the motion, dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims against both Ms. Maldonado and Imperial.

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Appellate Court Holds Employee’s Expenses Related to Work Injury Were Reasonable and Necessary, Louisiana Employer Responsible for Payments

In a recent decision, the Louisiana Third Circuit reviewed a workers’ compensation case in which an employee suffered injuries in the course and scope of his employment, and he received treatment without submitting proper workers’ compensation forms to request authorization for continuing medical care.  The issue was whether the employer was responsible for paying for reasonable and necessary medical treatment, up to the $750 cap set forth by Louisiana law.  The appellate court also reviewed the award of penalties against the employer and attorney’s fees for the employee and workers’ compensation claimant. In this case, the employee worked for a trucking company as a driver. He was injured on January 4, 2013, while operating a flatbed truck that had been loaded with pipe. As he was delivering the pipe, a load fell from his trailer and onto him. He suffered severe injuries and underwent multiple surgeries. The incident took place in Arkansas, and the employee was treated by four physicians in that state.  He then requested that his employer write letters of financial responsibility so that he could continue treatment with these physicians. The employer refused and requested the physicians to abide by the guidelines, submitting a 1010 form. The employee then continued treatment, without completing the form or receiving more authorization from his employer.

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Louisiana Appellate Court Lacks Subject Matter Jurisdiction in Workers’ Compensation Case Because Judgment in Favor of Employee Does Not Have Required Decretal Language to be Appealable

In a recent case, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal held they lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of an appeal. The court stated the rule that all judgments must be valid and appealable in order to be reviewed by an appeals court. In this particular workers’ compensation lawsuit, the injured employee had been granted benefits, and one remaining issue was the amount of the benefits to be calculated.  After the employee appealed the decision, the Fifth Circuit reviewed the lower court’s judgment and found it lacking proper language – language that must be “precise, definite, and certain,” according to the court. In 2008, Carl Gabriel was working for Delta Air Lines, Inc. when he suffered an injury in the course and scope of his employment. On October 31, 2011, the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) found that an accident had taken place and ordered that his weekly wage should be calculated to include his bonus and shared rewards from Delta. Then, Delta appealed the judgment on the ground that the OWC erred. The Fifth Circuit then affirmed the 2011 OWC judgment. But, the court noted in this case, the October 31, 2011 OWC judgment and the opinion of the Fifth Circuit did not address the amount of “shared rewards” or “bonus” that would be included in Mr. Gabriel’s wage calculation. After the decision, Delta made indemnity payments to Mr. Gabriel, basing their payment on the calculation of his weekly wage, including his shared rewards and bonus. Mr. Gabriel did not agree with Delta’s determination of his […]

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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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