Appellate Court Upholds Finding that Accident Did Not Cause Employee’s Injuries

clouds-crane-drill-414936-1024x384Everyone gets injured, but what happens when you are injured on the job and had been in an accident in the past? Does the court take that into consideration if you file a lawsuit, or does the court presume an accident was work-related? In one local case, the workers’ compensation judge found that the injury at issue was not caused by the work accident. The injured party, Todd Porche (“Porche”), appealed this determination. 

Generally, when reviewing workers’ compensation cases, the appellate court must determine whether the commission’s conclusions are reasonable using the clearly wrong standard. Richardson v. North Oaks, 91 So.3d 361, 365 (La. App. 2012). If there are two acceptable views of the evidence, the fact finder’s decision may not be found manifestly erroneous, or clearly wrong. Here, Porche alleged that the workers’ compensation judge erred in denying the reopening of the case, which is within the discretion of the court. Reopening the case would have allowed Porche to prove causation.

On September 11, 2013, Todd Porche (“Porche”) was working for Guichard Operating Co., LLC (“Guichard”) when he fell between eight to fourteen feet onto a steel rig floor, where he allegedly injured his back and head. As a result, Porche received workers’ compensation benefits from the date of the accident through March 13, 2014. When Guichard terminated Porche’s benefits, the company alleged that Porche violated La. R.S. 23:1208 and 23:1208.1. If true, it would mean Porche forfeited all benefits and would owe the company restitution, interest, and costs. After a four-day trial, the workers’ compensation judge denied Porche’s claims.

Porche appealed, alleging that the trial court erred in finding that he did not establish his back injury was due to the work-related fall. The workers’ compensation judge explained in a thoroughly written opinion that the court believed the head laceration and a soft tissue muscular injury was a result of the September 13th fall. However, Porche had been involved in 11 accidents from 1995 through 2013, not including the September 13 incident, only two of which were work-related. The court found that the back fracture was a result of one of the prior accidents due in part to testimony by Dr. Christopher Cenac (“Cenac”).

Porche argued that the workers’ compensation judge erred by refusing to reopen the record so that Porche could submit additional evidence unforeseen at the time of trial. This evidence would show that in April and May of 2015, Porche had received surgery on his back. However, the workers’ compensation judge did not believe that the more recent treating physician who performed the surgery would have had a better opinion on the cause of his back injury. The reviewing court cannot override that finding as there was no manifest error, and this decision is at the discretion of the trial court.

In the end, the reviewing court was forced to affirm the workers’ compensation commissions holding because its holding was not manifestly erroneous. If you are suing your employer for wrongful termination of your workers’ compensation benefits, be sure to hire a great attorney who will ensure that all evidence required to prove causation is submitted with the required timeframe.

Additional Sources: Guichard Operating Co., LLC, et al. v. Porche

Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Lyndsey Fuller

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