Recently, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal addressed the issue of jurisdiction, or the power of a court to hear a lawsuit. In Louisiana, the Office of Workers’ Compensation has jurisdiction over workers’ compensation proceedings. The law provides for extraterritorial coverage, or coverage outside the state, provided that the employee meets certain requirements. In this case, the appellate court reviewed whether the trial court properly found that the Louisiana resident in this case had not met those requirements.
Lemcy Cortez was a Louisiana resident hired by a Texas corporation to drive trucks in Oklahoma. While working, Mr. Cortez suffered injuries in an automobile accident. He filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation with the Louisiana Office of Workers’ Compensation against his employer and their insurance company for workers’ compensation. Mr. Cortez claimed that his employer refused to pay his workers’ compensation benefits, even though he was injured in the course and scope of his employment.
The employer and the insurer argued that Mr. Cortez had been hired in Oklahoma to work in Oklahoma, and Louisiana did not have jurisdiction over the matter.
The evidence before the trial court showed that Mr. Cortez learned of the job through a friend and was hired in Oklahoma to be a truck driver in Oklahoma, despite his claim that the contract of hire took place in Louisiana and that he was offered the job by phone while in Louisiana. The trial court rendered a judgment in favor of the employer and the insurer’s exceptions of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Mr. Cortez appealed, asserting the court erred in finding there was no contract of hire in Louisiana.
The appellate court stated that under Louisiana law, jurisdiction is the power and authority of a court to hear an action and to grant relief to the parties. Louisiana law also provides for workers’ compensation benefits to employees who are injured while working outside the state, if their employment was principally localized in Louisiana, and they were working under a contract of hire made in Louisiana.
In this case, Mr. Cortez argued that the Office of Workers’ Compensation had jurisdiction over his claim because the contract of hire was made in Louisiana.
The court stated the rule that the parties’ intent should be paramount in determining whether a contract should be regarded as a Louisiana contract. Factors that help determine intent include the domicile of the parties, the nature of the work to be performed, and the place where the employment was initiated.
In this case, Mr. Cortez lived in Bridge City, Louisiana. The appellate court stated that Mr. Cortez’s belief that he was hired in Oklahoma was of “paramount importance” in determining the location of his contract with the employer. His belief about where he was hired was relevant to establishing his intent regarding his employment. Additionally, the evidence showed that Mr. Cortez understood he would be hired if he went to Oklahoma and applied for the job, passed the road test, and had a negative test screen. In other words, Mr. Cortez had to complete pre-employment requirements in Oklahoma.
The appellate court found the trial court’s conclusion was reasonable, based on the evidence. They held it was not manifestly erroneous for the trial court to find that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Mr. Cortez’s claim.
The court affirmed the judgment of the Office of Workers’ Compensation.
At Lavis Law, individuals injured in the course and scope of their employment can gain a better understanding of their rights under Louisiana workers’ compensation law. Contact our office for a free consultation at 866-855-9151.
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