Articles Posted in Pain And Suffering Claims

construction-worker-safety-gear-1024x683Almost every adult American has thought about what would happen if they were injured at work. They ask would they receive enough to sustain their pre-injury lifestyle and if not, what remedies are available. Typically, employees are eligible for workers’ compensation, but the workers’ compensation system seems odd to some people. For example, if you lose a finger at work, you will get a set amount, but depending on what finger you may get more than someone else who also lost a finger. The question, in this case, is whether Terry Russell, who was injured on the job, is eligible for supplemental earning benefits (“SEBs”). A SEBs award is based on the difference between the claimant’s pre-injury average monthly wage, and the claimant’s proven post-injury monthly earning capacity. Seal v. Gaylord Container Corp., 704 So. 2d 1161 (La. 1997).

In 2009, Mr. Russell was employed by the Sewage & Water Board of New Orleans (“Sewage & Water Board”), when he was unfortunately injured while opening a manhole cover. The accident caused blood clotting in his upper arm and it was later found to have caused “thoracic outlet syndrome,” which injured a vein in his upper chest. To repair the damage, Mr. Russell underwent several surgeries and procedures, one of which was to remove one of his ribs to correct the thoracic outlet vein syndrome and repair the vein stint that was placed during an earlier surgery. By April of 2012, Dr. Torrence, Mr. Russell’s main doctor throughout the ordeal determined that Mr. Russell had reached maximum medical improvement, clearing him to return to work. However, he was only cleared for sedentary work, meaning he could not use his left arm, life more than five pounds, nor work more than four hours per day.

Due to Mr. Russell’s longtime employment and good work ethic, the Sewage & Water Board offered him part-time work as a mail courier, which he declined because he would not be making his pre-injury salary. After declining the position, the Sewage & Water Board stopped making disability payments to Mr. Russell, leading to the case in question. Mr. Russell asked the Louisiana Court of Appeals (the “Court”) to overturn the Office of Workers’ Compensation calculation of SEBs that Mr. Russell is entitled. To be entitled to SEBs one must not earn 90 percent of their pre-injury wages, which Mr. Russell would not had he accepted the part-time mail courier work. See La. R.S. § 23:1221. Thus, the Court correctly held that Mr. Russell was entitled to SEBs; however, they determined that the wages he would have earned as a mail courier must be imputed to him for the purposes of calculating his post-injury earnings. La. R.S. § 23:1221.

image-1024x656Everyone has that one coworker that just gets under their skin. Some days even the sound of their voice feels like it will push you over the edge. However, when things turn physical in the workplace, not only is an employee at fault, but the company may be as well.

In the Parish of Tangipahoa, Towana Carr worked at Sanderson Farms along with her co-employee, Kevin Webb. According to Carr, while at work Webb deliberately struck her with a “pallet jack” that knocked her into a wall. She then claimed Webb struck her with the equipment for a second time and left her with severe injuries. Prior to the accident, Carr claimed that Webb had threatened her with bodily harm outside of work. However, when she informed her employer, Sanderson Farms, of the threat, they said they could not do anything as the threat was not made on their property. Carr sued with a claim that Sanderson Farm was vicariously liable for her injuries. Sanderson Farm filed a petition stating that Webb was not acting within the scope of his employment; thus, Sanderson Farm not liable. The trial court dismissed all claims against Sanderson Farm and Carr appealed.

An employer may be held liable for intentional acts of an employee under LA Rev Stat § 23:1032 (2014).  The courted followed Baumeister v. Plunkett, 673 So. 2d 994 (La. 1996) and used a set of  factors to determine whether an employee’s intentional conduct is closely enough connected to his employment duties to impose vicarious liability on his employer for the conduct: 1) whether the tortious act was rooted in his job duties, (2) whether the offense act was reasonably incidental to the performance of the employee’s duties, 3) whether the act at the place the place of work, and (4) whether it happened during normal business hours.

sunset-dunes-1358916-1024x768In the law, words matter greatly. How even one word is defined can make or break a lawsuit. However, courts do not allow words to be defined willy-nilly. There are certain methods courts will use to define words. In the case below, we will see how the plaintiff’s case was rendered moot due to the court’s interpretation of a word.

Michael Smith, Danielle Schelmety, and James Johnson were friends who decided to celebrate Michael’s birthday at his home in Ruston, Louisiana. Michael’s dad, Dr. William Smith, owned an off-road vehicle called a Rhino. James and Danielle wanted to go for a ride on the Rhino. With permission, James drove the Rhino with Danielle as his passenger. Unfortunately, James was a bit reckless and flipped the vehicle over onto the passenger side while making a turn. Danielle, who was sitting in the passenger seat, received severe injuries to her left arm. Danielle sued Safeco, Dr. Smith’s insurance company, arguing it was liable for the accident. However, Safeco argued that it could not be liable because James, the driver, was not covered by the insurance company’s contract because he was not a “resident” according to the contract. The District Court agreed and denied relief for Danielle.

In Louisiana, an insurance policy is interpreted by the rules of the Louisiana Civil Code that govern contract interpretation. Marshall v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co., 182 So. 3d 214 (La. App. Ct. 2015). If an insurance policy contract contains clear terms, then a court interpreting the contract does not need to go through a thorough analysis. La. C.C. 2046. However, if the contract contains terms that are exclusionary and also ambiguous, then the terms are interpreted in a way that is favorable to the insurance holder. Byrnside v. Hutto, 110 So. 3d 603.

welding-1414385-1024x683Disputes over injuries that occur on the job can be difficult to resolve for both employer and employee. Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal addressed a common source of dispute — whether an employee’s medical condition was actually caused by his employment — in a case involving a welder who developed compartment syndrome.

Isiah Loucious began working as a welder apprentice for Crest Industries in February of 2014.  In September 2014, he filed a lawsuit against Crest alleging that beginning in April 2014, he developed an occupational disease of compartment syndrome as a result of his work activities. An occupational disease is any disease or illness that occurs due to the actions and conditions of a job. La. R.S. 23:1031.1(B). Loucious alleged that after he started working for Crest, he began to experience cramping and swelling in his right arm and hand. Crest filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that Loucious had complained of having a weak hand grip, numbness, and tingling in both hands a number of years before the alleged the onset of compartment syndrome. A motion for summary judgment is made when a party believes that the adverse party has failed to provide evidence to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact in dispute. Loucious opposed Crest’s summary judgment motion, relying on a medical record wherein the physician, Dr. Raymond Beurlot, checked “yes” next to the statement:  “the compartment syndrome in the right hand/arm developed, more probably than not, during the course and scope of employment with Crest Industries, LLC.” The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) granted Crest’s summary judgment motion, explaining that nothing in the record showed that Dr. Beurlot knew the specific job functions and duties of Loucious when signing the medical record. Therefore, the record did not support Loucious’s contention that his medical condition was the result of his employment with Crest. Loucious appealed the WCJ’s ruling.

The issue for the Court of Appeal was whether the WCJ was correct in holding that the medical record signed by Dr. Beurlot did not create a genuine issue of material fact that should have precluded summary judgment. Under Louisiana law, an alleged occupational disease is presumed not to have occurred during the course of employment when the employee has performed the particular job duties for less than twelve months. La. R.S.23:1031.1(D). In order for the employee to controvert this presumption, he must provide evidence that contradicts the presumed fact. La. C.E. art. 305. That evidence should pertain to the employee’s work and life activities before the time of employment. See Davies v. Johnson Controls, Inc. A certified medical record can serve as this evidence, so long as it is prepared by the health care provider in his or her usual course of business. La. R.S.13:3715.1(E)(2).

girls-playing-1564125-1024x768What happens when a plaintiff is injured, and damages are denied? How can a plaintiff prove they suffered injuries from an accident? According to Louisiana law, a plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that his or her damages were the result of an injury caused by the defendant. Wainwright v. Fontenot, 74 So.2d 70, 77 (La. 2000).  The following Louisiana Fifth Circuit case demonstrates the plaintiff’s burden of proof needed for a Louisiana court to award damages.  

On March 5, 2013, Regina, and her minor children, Darren and Darinesha were traveling northward in the center lane of Williams Boulevard when their car was sideswiped by a car driven by Mr. Hashim on Williams Boulevard in Jefferson Parish. The airbags in both cars failed to deploy, and the cars only sustained minor headlight and paint damage. The plaintiffs, Regina Tezeno, and her minor children, Darren and Darinesha Tezeno filed a lawsuit against Mr. Joel Hashim and his insurer.  

The district court attributed 100% fault to Mr. Hashim and awarded Regina Tezeno special damages of $1,035.00 and general damages of $4,500.00. Yet, the trial court dismissed the award claims to her minor children with prejudice. The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s refusal to award damages to the children.

building-on-fire-1211010-1024x680When a loved one dies from an avoidable accident, a family’s options for recovery include a wrongful death lawsuit. For this claim to succeed, a family often needs to prove that someone had a duty to protect the decedent but acted negligently in causing this death. For wrongful death lawsuits related to building fires, potentially negligent parties include those involved in preventing these disasters: building inspectors and fire marshals.

A fire at the Willow Creek Apartments in Grand Isle, LA on September 26, 2012 resulted in the deaths of two residents, Belle Brandle and Timothy Foret. One year later, Mr. Foret’s sisters, Sandra Hanson, Yvonne Grizzaffi, and Patricia Foret, brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the Office of the State Fire Marshal (“SFM”) and the inspector who inspected the apartments prior to the fire, Nunzio Marchiafava. Mr. Foret’s sisters argued that SFM and the inspector were negligent in responding to a resident’s fire hazard complaint. The trial court granted SFM and the inspector’s motion to dismiss in 2015; one of Mr. Foret’s sisters, Sandra Hanson, appealed.

Her argument hinged on the following four purported claims regarding SFM and the inspector: (1) they failed to investigate the report of a fire hazard, (2) they failed to advise the apartment owner of this hazard, (3) they failed to bring action against the apartment owner for this hazard, and (4) the inspector falsified his inspection report.

Qualified immunity is a concept that is designed to protect civil servants from lawsuits for their official actions. The “qualification” means that immunity does not operate for actions that are unlawful or that show extreme incompetence. Generally, under Louisiana law, law enforcement officers are entitled to immunity so long as their actions do not violate statutes or infringe on others’ constitutional rights. Negligence alone is not sufficient to limit immunity. An officer maintain qualified immunity up to the point of “going too far,” which is what happened during an incident at a Lafayette apartment in December, 2011. On that evening, Quamaine Mason stopped by his girlfriend’s apartment to pick up his dog when he saw the father of his girlfriend’s child and another man in the apartment with her. Mr. Mason proceeded to bang on the door until his girlfriend opened it. He threatened both men with his gun and they left the apartment. One of the men called the police, claiming Mr. Mason broke into the apartment with the intention of stealing the dog. Officer Martin Faul of the Lafayette Police Department arrived on the scene. When Officer Faul ordered Mr. Mason to put his hands up, the action revealed that Mr. Mason was carrying a firearm. Ultimately, Officer Faul fatally shot Mr. Mason seven times.  

Witness testimony at trial differed. Officer Faul testified that Mr. Mason was going to pull his gun, leading him to shoot Mr. Mason first. Mason’s girlfriend, however, testified that Mason was lying on the ground barely moving with his hands by his sides when at least two of Officer Faul’s shots were fired. Mr. Mason’s parents (the “Masons”), both individually and on behalf of their son, brought multiple claims against the officers involved and the police department.

The Masons’ claims were based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Officer Faul violated the US Constitution. First, his use of excessive force violated Mr. Mason’s Fourth Amendment rights; next, Officer Faul deprived Mason of substantive due process under the 14th Amendment by engaging in actions that “shock the conscience”; finally, Officer Faul violated Mason’s Eighth Amendment rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his medical needs after the shooting. The Masons also brought civil claims against the City of Lafayette. Officer Faul asserted the affirmative defense of qualified immunity, and the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was granted by the trial court. The Masons appealed to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

dealer-1315871-1024x768People bring lawsuits in order to obtain compensation for wrongs they have endured. Even when there is no dispute about liability, determining the appropriate categories and amounts of damages can be complicated as it involves numerous legal and technical issues. Damages can encompass everything from past and future medical expenses to scarring to loss of enjoyment of life. However, there must be sufficient evidence from which a court can draw to support the award of damages. The following lawsuit that stemmed from a fight at a casino illustrates some of these principles.

Picou intentionally battered Daigle at a bar at L’Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Daigle suffered a split lip, bruising, and has had headaches ever since. Picou admitted liability, leading to a bench trial on the issue of damages.  The trial court awarded $3,000.00 for past medical damages, $10,000.00 for past and future pain and suffering, $5,000.00 for scarring and disfigurement, $5,000.00 for past and future impairment, $2,000.00 for loss of enjoyment of life, $10,000.00 for past and future mental anguish, and $5,000.00 for past and future disability. Picou appealed the damage award, claiming that the trial court erred in awarding Daigle an excessive amount of damages.

La C.C. Art. 2315(A) (2017) states that “[e]very act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.” When reviewing a trial court’s damage award, the appellate looks at the facts and circumstances of the case to determine if the trial court abused its discretion. Miller v. Lammico, 973 So. 2d 693, 711 (La. 2008). The appellate court will only overturn an award of damages if it finds that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding the damages.

the-old-school-1548001-1024x768In Louisiana, determining the allocation of fault is an important part of lawsuits because it directly impacts the damages you can be awarded. If you are found 40% at fault, then you will only be able to collect damages for 60% of total damages.

Bordelon was employed by Avoyelles Parish School Board as the girls’ basketball coach for Marksville High School. Bordelon held practice on Sunday, but showed up with allegedly an alcoholic beverage in his hand and allegedly appeared highly agitated. The next day, Bordelon did not arrive at school. The school principal, Allgood, and another coach went to Bordelon’s home to check on him. Bordelon told them he did not want them there. Later that day, Bordelon went to school and met with the principal. Bordelon was heard screaming and cursing. He then left the school and Allgood followed him. They got in a fight, the specifics of which are disputed. Allgood sought medical treatment for his injuries. Allgood then filed a lawsuit against Bordelon and the Avoyelles Parish School Board.

There was no dispute that Bordelon battered Allgood, so the case focused on whether Allgood contributed to the battery. The jury found that Allgood was 60% at fault, so he was awarded no money. Allgood appealed, arguing that the jury erred in assigning him 60% of the fault in causing the battery because he did not commit any intentional act that caused or contributed to the battery. Allgood also argued that the jury erred in failing to award him any general damages or damages for future medical expenses.  

body-massage-1428380-683x1024Imagine going to get a massage and leaving with an injury that forever altered your life. After such an injury, it is difficult to put a dollar value on these injuries. The following lawsuit discusses the types of damages that can be sought by a Plaintiff who believes that they have been injured by a massage gone wrong.

In October 2007, Maureen Jones received a Swedish massage from Larry Ashton, Jr., a massage therapist employed by Paris Parker Salon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Jones reports that the massage therapist was “rough and aggressive” during the massage, causing her pain and discomfort. By the next day, she experienced sharp and burning pain. She sought medical attention and discovered she had ruptured a disc.

In October 2008, Jones sued Neill Corporation, who was doing business as Paris Parker Salons, Ashton, and ABC Insurance Company. She alleged that Ashton negligently performed the massage and he breached the reasonable standard of care, causing serious, permanent, and disabling injuries. The trial court found in favor of Jones and founding that Ashton breached the applicable standard of care. The trial court awarded damages consisting of pain and suffering, mental anguish and distress, loss of enjoyment of life, permanent disability, past lost wages, and past medical expenses.