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Louisiana Appeals Court Affirms that Plaintiff is Borrowed Employee Barred from Pursuing Tort Claim

In a recent case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, the court addressed the issue of borrowed employee status in the context of the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe plaintiff, Mr. Von Lastie, appealed a summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the City of Gretna and Ronnie Harris. Mr. Lastie had been employed by a staffing agency and assigned to work for the City of Gretna. He worked with a grass cutting crew and was transported in a van to a location for a grass-cutting assignment. Another City of Gretna employee failed to put the van in “park,” and the van rolled into traffic and was struck by a tractor-trailer. Mr. Lastie suffered personal injuries.

Mr. Lastie sued the City of Gretna and Ronnie Harris, the mayor of the City at that time, as well as their insurers. The City of Gretna and Mayor Harris generally denied the allegations, asserting that Mr. Lastie was a borrowed employee, barred from suing the City of Gretna in tort due to his coverage by the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act.

The City of Gretna and Mayor Harris moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Mr. Lastie was a borrowed employee of the City of Gretna. Since his exclusive remedy is for workers’ compensation benefits, he is barred from pursuing a tort action. They submitted Mr. Lastie’s deposition, as well as affidavits and discovery, in support of their motion. Mr. Lastie opposed the motion, but the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Gretna and Mayor Harris, on the grounds that Mr. Lastie was a borrowed City of Gretna employee. Mr. Lastie appealed the judgment.

The appeals court framed the issue as a determination of Mr. Lastie’s status as a borrowed employee. If he is a borrowed employee of the City of Gretna at the time of the accident, the defendants are immune from tort liability.   Borrowed employee disputes, according to the court, arise when a defendant who is not a formal employer asserts that the plaintiff is acting as the defendant’s employee. The appeals court stated that the case of Ruiz v. Shell Oil Co., 413 F.2d 210 (5th Cir. 1969), sets forth factors for the consideration of borrowed employee status. These include who had the right of control over the employee, whether there was an agreement between the formal employer and borrowing employer, who had the right to discharge the employee, and other factors. The court stated that the right of control factor is weighted heavily in favor of borrowed employee status.

In the present case, the first factor the court assessed was who had the right of control over Mr. Lastie. Mr. Lastie’s testimony included a description of his direction from a Gretna employee, and not the temporary agency. The president of the temporary agency stated that the City of Gretna supervised and controlled the work of Mr. Lastie. Through testimony and affidavits, it was made clear that the City of Gretna supervised and controlled Mr. Lastie’s work.

While Mr. Lastie argued that no one supervised him at the time of the accident, the court stated that the evidence does not support this argument. The court held that the evidence clearly established that Gretna had the right of control over Mr. Lastie. The court stated that the work being performed was for the City of Gretna, since Mr. Lastie cut grass at one location and then drove to another location.

The court stated that there had not been a formal agreement or understanding that Mr. Lastie was a borrowed employee.   In considering the other factors, the court stated that the City of Gretna provided the tools and place of employment, including the weed eater, the gas for the weed eater, and a yellow vest for Mr. Lastie.

Regarding the length of time of Mr. Lastie’s employment, the intention was for Mr. Lastie to maintain a long-term assignment with the City of Gretna. Mr. Lastie also testified that he anticipated his position would be long term. The City of Gretna recorded Mr. Lastie’s hours and was obligated to pay the staffing agency for Mr. Lastie’s services by the hour.

The court stated that the analysis of the Ruiz factors demonstrates that Mr. Lastie was a borrowed employee of the City of Gretna at the time of the accident. Since there were no genuine issues of material fact on this issue, Mr. Lastie’s lawsuit is barred by the exclusivity provisions of the workers’ compensation act.

The court held that summary judgment was properly granted, and they affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.

At Lavis Law, we represent individuals who are injured during the course and scope of their employment. We help individuals understand their right to pursue workers’ compensation claims. Contact our office for a free consultation at 866-855-9151.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Appeals Court Holds Employer/Employee Contract Does Not Change Relationship Created By Law, Louisiana Job Injury Lawyer Blog,  August 7, 2015

Louisiana Appeals Court Holds Employee Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits When Injured in Parking Lot Arriving for Her Shift, Louisiana Job Injury Lawyer Blog,  June 12, 2015

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