It’s reasonable to want to feel safe at work, no matter your job. Employers must keep their employees free from unnecessary danger and generally provide a safe working environment. Even given this duty, the law doesn’t always hold them responsible for the actions of criminals. A recent lawsuit out of Lafayette discusses the principles court asses to determine what remedies are available to employees when crime happens.
Melody Smith (Smith), an employee of Circle K, was robbed at gunpoint by Marcus Sam while making a bank deposit for the store. After the incident, Smith filed a lawsuit and was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ Compensation is an exclusive remedy for accidents in the workplace. R.S. 23:1032(A)(1)(a).
Smith later filed an amended and supplemental lawsuit that claimed Circle K committed intentional torts of assault and battery on her because they created an environment for her to be robbed. Smith argued that because Sam overheard her manager telling her to make a bank deposit the robbery was inevitable. Circle K disputed Smith’s claims and filed a motion for summary judgment.
According to the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 966(D)(1), for a motion for summary judgment to be successful, the mover must explain why that judgment should be granted in their favor. This can be done by showing the other party cannot prove all the elements of their case. The other party needs to respond with evidence that a genuine issue of material fact exists and show why summary judgment should not be granted.
Circle K filed their motion for summary judgment, arguing that the exclusive remedy provisions within the Louisiana Workers Compensation Administration barred Smith’s tort claim. Circle K also argued that Smith had not done anything to support her claims of intentional torts of assault and battery.
Smith responded by providing a list of what she said were disputed facts. These facts included a statement of the Circle K store manager telling Smith to make the deposit, a statement of the actions of Marcus Smith, the Circle K Manger’s knowledge of Marcus Smith’s reputation in the community, Smith’s chances of being robbed, and more.
A key issue in deciding the motion was whether or not intentional torts were committed. To evaluate this issue, courts of appeals use a two prongs test to determine if an action was deliberate. First, the test requires the plaintiff to prove the desire and intent of the other party who committed the act. It has been recognized that when a person knows the consequences of their actions are inevitable or that something will result from their action, and they still choose to act, it is concluded they desired the outcome of their action.
Louisiana courts have referenced terms such as “substantially certain” to mean the outcome must have been “almost inevitable,” “virtually sure,” and “incapable of failing.” Blevins v. Time Saver Stores, Inc., So.2d 191, 193 (La. Ct. App. 1999). Louisiana Courts have also found the meaning of intent is that the defendant either desired to bring about the physical harm or believed that injury was substantially certain to occur.
The court found Smith didn’t have evidence to support her intentional tort claim. She made multiple assertions, but she didn’t show an intentional tort. Moreover, there was no evidence to suggest the store manager knew Sam would rob Smith. Therefore, the court found the district court was correct in finding Smith’s sole remedy for recovery through the workers’ compensation system.
Although not unscathed, Ms. Smith was lucky enough to survive this scary ordeal. Hopefully, the Worker’s Compensation system was able to provide her some relief for her claims. A skilled lawyer will help you navigate the intricacies of litigation and will guide you through what claims should succeed in Louisiana.
Additional Sources: Melody P. Smith v. Marcus Sam, Et Al.
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Needum Lekia
Other Berniard Law Firm Articles on Workers Compensation : Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act and other Available Remedies