In a recent opinion, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a judgment of the Office of Workers’ Compensation, finding that an injured employee’s claim for compensation was prescribed. Prescription serves to limit the time period within which workers’ compensation claims may be filed, and in this case, the time period was one year following the accident or injury. The facts of this case were unique because the employer and employee had entered into a settlement agreement, and the employee argued that he was led to believe that his employer would take care of him. The court analyzed the four common scenarios under which contra non valentem applies, and it determined that the facts of the underlying case supported the earlier ruling that the claim was time-barred.
In this case, the employee worked for Lowe’s Home Centers, and he was injured in April 2006 in the course and scope of his employment. Over the next six years, he received indemnity benefits ($98,746.87) and medical benefits ($127,904.25). In August 2012, the parties submitted a petition for settlement in which Lowe’s would pay $48,500.00 to settle past, present, and future claims for indemnity benefits, as well as all past reimbursable medical costs related to the alleged accident. The settlement document made clear the parties reserved their rights as they related to the employee’s future medical benefits.
In September 2015, the employee filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation, and Lowe’s filed a peremptory exception of prescription, which was granted. The employee appealed. The issue on appeal was whether the Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”) judge had erred in holding that the doctrine of contra non valentem did not apply to the facts of this case. In other words, the issue was whether Lowe’s exception of prescription was properly granted.