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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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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 Appellate Court Upholds Agreement Between Injured Employee and Her Attorney Regarding Payment of Attorney Fees in Workers’ Compensation Case

In a recent opinion, the Louisiana First Circuit addressed whether the workers’ compensation judge had properly amended the award of attorney fees following the injured employee’s acceptance of a settlement award.  In this case, the court addressed the issue of the payment of attorney fees in a workers’ compensation case, and whether a signed contract for the payment of fees can be amended by the judge. The court here determined that the record supported the award of attorney fees as agreed to by the parties, the injured employee and her attorney. The facts of the workers’ compensation claim demonstrated that Malaysia Brown worked for C&S Wholesale Grocers and suffered injuries in the course and scope of her employment. Ms. Brown hired Ms. Johnson-Griffin to represent her regarding her workers’ compensation claim, and she filed a disputed claim for compensation. Before trial, Ms. Brown’s claim with C&S was settled, and a joint petition for the approval of a workers’ compensation compromise settlement was filed.  Ms. Brown would receive a lump sum of $135,000 in full settlement of her claim from the accident, and with $125,000 of that sum “allocated to future medical treatment.” The settlement also stated that Ms. Brown would pay attorney fees to Ms. Johnson-Griffin for $27,000 from the settlement proceeds.

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