Louisiana Court of Appeal Holds Injured Independent Contractor did not Meet Burden of Proof for Workers’ Compensation Benefits under Manual Labor Exception

Recently, the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal addressed whether an individual seeking workers’ compensation benefits qualified as an independent contractor of a bath and kitchen company, file0001812797650 performing manual labor essential to the employer’s trade or business.  Under Louisiana law, workers’ compensation coverage exists for independent contractors performing manual labor during a substantial part of the work period. Here, the court analyzed the type of work performed, and whether this work was in fact part of the principal’s business or occupation.

John C. Maldonado-Mejia (“Maldonado”) was working when he fell through the roof of a commercial property rented by Eversound Kitchen and Bath, L.L.C. Mr. Maldonado suffered a head injury and lapsed into a coma.  He filed a claim for compensation and alleged he was injured in the course and scope of his employment with Eversound, that Eversound had not paid workers’ compensation benefits or medical treatment, and that he was entitled to both penalties and attorney’s fees.  Eversound denied that Mr. Maldonado was an employee and also claimed there had been no reason for Mr. Maldonado to have been on the roof.

The matter went to trial, and the issue of liability was tried before damages. Kenneth Hui testified, as one of the owners of Eversound.  He described how he hired Mr. Maldonado to perform the specific task of cleaning the inside of and removing trash from a property owned by Eversound. He explained the details of the job, including the facts that Mr. Maldonado provided the tools to perform the work and that Mr. Hui gave only the instruction that the property needed to be emptied and the garbage removed.  There was no supervision over Mr. Maldonado’s work.

Mr. Maldonado argued on appeal that the Office of Worker’s Compensation erred by failing to find that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits as an independent contractor and therefore entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  To determine whether a relationship is one between a principal and a contractor, courts consider if there is a valid contract, if the work done is of an independent nature, if there is a specific price for the job, and if the parties agree on a specific time or duration.

In this case, Mr. Maldonado had been hired to perform a single project for a set price and time.  Since Mr. Hui provided no tools to Mr. Maldonado and gave no instruction or supervision regarding how to perform the work, Mr. Maldonado was Eversound’s independent contractor.

The court next considered whether Mr. Maldonado was entitled to workers’ compensation under an exception for manual labor.  Louisiana workers’ compensation provides coverage for a certain type of independent contractor, working in manual labor for a substantial part of the work time.  But this rule of law also requires that the manual labor performed is part of the principal’s trade, business, or occupation. Here, Mr. Maldonado moved and cleaned, clearly performing physical work.  The sole question was whether the work Mr. Maldonado performed was part of Eversound’s trade or occupation.

To be considered part of the trade, business, or occupation, under Louisiana law, the work must be an “integral part of or essential to the ability of the principal to generate that individual principal’s goods, products, or services.”

Eversound contended that Mr. Maldonado’s work was not essential to their business.  Their business was the sale and installation of countertops and cabinets.  Mr. Maldonado was moving and cleaning, and this was not essential to the business of selling and installing kitchen cabinets and countertops.

Mr. Maldonado’s work was not an integral part of or essential to Eversound’s ability to generate goods, products, and services. Therefore, it was not part of Eversound’s business.  Mr. Maldonado was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for his injuries, and the Office of Workers’ Compensation was not manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong in dismissing Mr. Maldonado’s claim.

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.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Appeals Court Holds that Injured Employee is Barred from Bringing Lawsuit Due to Status as Statutory Employee, Louisiana Injury Lawyer Blog

Louisiana Appeals Court Affirms that Plaintiff is Borrowed Employee Barred from Pursuing Tort Claim, Louisiana Injury Lawyer Blog

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