Articles Posted in Louisiana Workers’ Compensation (LWC)

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Workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy under Louisiana law for workplace injuries or work-related diseases or illnesses. When an employer knowingly subjects employees to harm, moreover, they may have an intentional tort claim against them. A case before the Louisiana First Circuit Appellate Court analyzed the elements required to bring a successful tort claim against an employer.forklift

The employee in this case was injured when a forklift backed up and rolled over his foot. Another employee had been operating the forklift at the time, and his employer rented the forklift from Deep South Equipment Company. The employee brought a lawsuit against Deep South and the forklift’s manufacturer on the ground that his injuries were caused by their negligent acts. He alleged the forklift was not properly maintained, or it malfunctioned because the backup alarm was not working.

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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.

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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.

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Recently, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal for Louisiana addressed whether a disabled former New Orleans Police Department officer should have accrued sick and annual leave after he was discharged from the Department. The plaintiff in this case worked as a New Orleans Police Department officer until he was found to be disabled as a result of depression resulting from an investigation into payroll fraud by agreementthe Department. In 1988, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Workers’ Compensation, naming as defendants the City of New Orleans and the Police Department.  The parties entered a consent judgment, which became the subject of the litigation before the appellate court.

The main issue before the court was whether the consent judgment could be enforced against the City. Plaintiff contended that his claim was a workers’ compensation matter, and since he still received workers’ compensation disability payments, he was an employee of Department.  As an employee, Plaintiff argued that he continued to accrue annual and sick leave, making that portion of the consent judgment enforceable.

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In a recent case before the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal, the court reviewed a case in which the workers’ compensation judge found the claimant had made willful misstatements for the purpose of obtaining Louisiana workers’ compensation benefits.  In this case, the court stated the level of proof necessary to show an injured worker’s false representations are more than inadvertent statements. In this case, medical testimony and surveillance video showed that the injured worker had in fact made false statements in order to receive benefits.scales

In April 2012, Earnest Hypolite suffered a workplace accident when he slipped and fell during work at the M.A. Patout sugar mill. He aggravated a previous back injury.  His employer paid indemnity and medical benefits through their workers’ compensation insurer.  The insurer then terminated the benefits after investigating Mr. Hypolite’s claim and concluding that he made false statements to his treating physician and that he had been collecting income from a personal business.

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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 dschool hallwayisciplinary 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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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 injurhorse ed 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 from Evangeline Downs and then, in violation of the lease agreement, subleased to Mr. Simon.  Mr. Simon hired Ms. Neece to exercise the horses that were stalled under Mr. Gelner’s trainer number. Ms. Neece was listed on Mr. Gelner’s employee list, and she testified at trial that if she had known she was not covered by workers’ compensation insurance, she would not have agreed to exercise Mr. Simon’s horses.

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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 treaflatbed trucktment, 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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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.

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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 weekly wage and filed a disputed claim. A hearing took place on Mr. Gabriel’s claim, and the judge issued “Written Reasons for Judgment.”

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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.barge

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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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.

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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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