Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

green_mold_harmful_mold-1024x768A pre-existing illness requiring time off is difficult, especially if one believes the work environment is worsening the condition. However, proving the environment is the cause of the worsening condition is difficult to do. So, how can a pre-existing illness affect a worker’s compensation claim? What happens if you cannot prove a causal link between a work environment and a worsening condition? The following Louisiana Court of Appeals case helps answer these questions. 

Amy Duplechin was a teacher at St. Landry Parish School beginning in 2000. She suffered from a respiratory condition causing several absences from work. After a semester-long sabbatical, Duplechin claimed her condition worsened due to alleged exposure to mold in her classroom. She claimed she found mold on the back of a bookshelf and growth along the air conditioner’s side. 

According to the School Board, the mold was cleaned by Duplechin and the custodial staff, and she was moved to a new classroom. Duplechin claimed the School Board failed to pay indemnity benefits and medical benefits timely and sought payment of penalties and attorney fees. Still, the workers’ compensation judge decided the law favored the School Board. 

auto_wall_breakthrough_art-1024x683If you need to file a lawsuit, obtaining the opposing party’s accurate service of process address is crucial. Otherwise, you may face challenges similar to those encountered by Veronica Gordon. Gordon was an independent contractor for A-1 St. Bernard Taxie & Delivery, LLC, when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving one of their cabs. Three days after the accident, she went to the emergency room for treatment of pain in her arm, shoulder, neck, and back.

Three months after the accident, Gordon filed a claim against A-1, alleging that they had failed to pay her wage benefits and authorize necessary medical treatment. She also sought penalties and attorney’s fees. Initially, Gordon listed an incorrect address for service on A-1, and even after amending her claim with an updated address, service could not be perfected.

In December 2015, the Louisiana Office of Worker’s Compensation (OWC) ordered Gordon to explain why her complaint should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. A week later, Gordon filed a motion to appoint a special process server, which was granted. However, after several failed attempts to serve process on A-1, Gordon filed a motion in February 2016 to appoint the Louisiana Secretary of State as the Agent for Service of Process for A-1, which was also granted. The Secretary of State sent the second amended claim to A-1’s last known address.

craftsmen_building_scaffold_19584-1024x679The evolving nature of employment now means the relationship between employer and employee can be indirect and through different contracting methods. In addition, many people employed by one company are, in fact, on the job doing work for another. A recent case in Louisiana highlights these distinctions and the risks posed to workers and their families when seeking compensation.

While working in 2013, Michael J. Louque Jr. was crushed to death by a piece of heavy machinery that rolled off the truck it was being loaded onto. Mr. Louque was employed by River Parish Maintenance (RPM) but was working at the Motiva Enterprises, LLC (“Motiva”) manufacturing complex. Upon his death, the family of Mr. Louque filed a lawsuit against Motiva and others, seeking compensation for his wrongful death. 

The contract that brought Mr. Louque to the Motiva manufacturing complex was actually between RPM and Shell Oil Products US (“Shell”). This point is crucial in understanding the state of the Louque’s litigation, as Louisiana law prohibits employees from directly suing their employers in a tort claim rather than pursuing worker’s compensation benefits. See Deshotel v. Guichard Operating Company, Inc.

wall-clock-at-5-50-707582-1024x626A typical work schedule for a full-time employee consist of working seven to eight  hours a day. A customary practice among some employees involves leaving their place of employment a couple minutes before their official workday ends; however, what happens if you are injured during those last few minutes? Are you considered “on the clock?” Can you sue your employer for damages, or are you restricted to workers’ compensation as your only remedy? These are the questions that will be discussed in this article. 

In order to adequately address these issues, we must first define the terms of art. The term “damages” can be defined as financial relief for an injury sustained resulting from another person’s actions or inaction. In tort cases, damages are typically awarded to a party or parties. On the other hand, under Louisiana law, workers’ compensation can be defined as a compromise between the employee and employer or co-employee that allows the injured employee to recover benefits in accordance with the statute La. R.S. 23:1031. Workers’ Compensation will create immunity for the employer or co-employee from civil tort lawsuits, except when intentional acts causing the injury are present. Therefore, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for most injured employees under Louisiana law.

In this case, there are multiple parties. The first party is the plaintiff, Ms. Frazier, who is the injured employee seeking recovery. The second and third parties are the defendants, the City of Shreveport in the Airfield Maintenance Division (the employer), and Mr. Patterson (the co-employee). Both Ms. Frazier and Mr. Patterson are employees for the City of Shreveport in the Airfield Maintenance Division. Ms. Frazier’s work schedule consisted of eight hours a day, arriving at eight o’clock in the morning and leaving work at five o’clock in the afternoon. On January 22, 2013, Ms. Frazier engaged in the customary practice of leaving work shortly before 5:00 p.m. During that time, she proceeded to the employee parking lot and entered her car. Soon thereafter, Ms. Frazier was involved in a low-impact collision with Mr. Patterson.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Patterson, he backed a city-owned truck into the rear bumper of Ms. Frazier’s personal vehicle. Ms. Frazier was then taken to the hospital for an examination. 

massage_therapy_spa_health-1024x768An injury on the job is never easy to deal with, especially when it results in a permanent disability affecting your ability to perform your regular job functions. A functional capacity evaluation (FCE) may be conducted at the employer’s expense to identify the parameters the claimant may return to work. However, a recent opinion from the Supreme Court of Louisiana held that a claimant does not have the right to choose a physical therapist to conduct the FCE at the employer’s expense. This may raise concerns for claimants who struggle to get back to work.

In May 2006, Paula Clavier sustained injuries to her neck, shoulder, and back while lifting an object, she believed to be lighter than it was. It is not disputed that this injury occurred on the job within the scope of her employment with Coburn Supply Co. Inc. (Coburn) in Harvey, Louisiana. After significant treatment, Corburn ordered an independent medical examination (IME), wherein their doctor, Dr. W. Stan Foster, opined that Clavier should receive an FCE to determine her work ability as she reached maximum medical improvement and would not require further treatment.

Since Clavier initially refused to attend the FCE, the employer filed a motion to compel the FCE, which was to be with a physician they chose. The Workers’ Compensation Court granted this motion.  Upon completion of the FCE, Ms. Clavier did not agree with the findings. She filed a motion requesting that the FCE be conducted with a physician of her choice to compare with the FCE performed by the employer’s physician. Clavier wanted to use an FCE conducted with her physical therapist and argued that Coburn should be responsible for paying for the same. 

inside_ambulance_ambulance_lighting-1024x576Physically demanding jobs can result in workplace injuries that prevent employees from working and earning a wage. However, it is essential when filing a worker’s compensation claim not only to prove your claim but to do so within the timelines required by the courts. A workplace accident claim filed in Metairie, Louisiana shows the importance of timeliness in workers’ compensation lawsuits and helps answer the question; What is the Deadline to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Louisiana?

Tramaine Eugene-Robinson was working as an EMT for East Jefferson General Hospital in late 2014. While transporting a patient on a stretcher, a malfunction occurred, causing her to drop the patient and injure her back and knees. When EJGH did not pay her wage benefits, Ms. Eugene-Robinson sued in 2017, alleging that she had suffered an injury of a “developmental nature,” meaning that the injury developed sometime after the actual accident. Although EJGH acknowledged that the plaintiff had experienced an injury at work, they argued that her claim was untimely under La. R.S. 23:1209(A).

La. R.S. 23:1209(A) sets time limits on worker’s compensation claims. The courts have recognized two different situations that establish the date that an injury turns into a disability: 1) the date the employee must stop working due to the injury or 2) the date that an employee is diagnosed as disabled. Winford v. Conerly Corp.

washing_machine_dryer_laundry-1024x768Many jobs require physical labor, which comes with some risks of injury on the clock, especially for those who install and move equipment. Sometimes you get injured while working, and you think, “maybe I can just work through this.” However, if you attempt to work through an injury and don’t report it immediately to your employer, they may try to avoid paying you workers’ compensation benefits. This happened to James Payton, a veteran and previous employee of NASA. Payton’s case helps answer the question; Can I get Workers’ Compensation Benefits if I Don’t Immediately Report My Injury? 

James Payton began working for Sears in 2013. Before this position, Payton served in the military and worked for NASA for 31 years. He was hired at Sears as an appliance technician, which requires some physical labor. During a shift, Payton was installing a washer/dryer in a residence and injured his back. Payton had never been involved in another accident or had injured his back before his employment with Sears. 

Payton continued working after his injury in the hope it would correct itself. Unfortunately, the injury worsened over the next few days, and Payton found it challenging to complete simple actions, such as getting out of bed or driving a car. After visiting a physician and receiving an MRI, it was confirmed that Payton had herniated discs in his lower back, and he was advised to avoid heavy lifting. He then reported his medical diagnosis to Sears approximately a month after the initial injury.  

tire_repairer_tire_mounting-1024x681Injuring yourself while on the job is not fun for anyone, especially when your accident further exacerbates a previous workplace injury. What happens if you then try to seek retroactive benefits from your previous injury? You may run into an issue of prescription (otherwise known as the statute of limitations). A 2016 case from Terrebonne Parish explores how prescription can play out in a compound workplace injury.

Gerald Hellmers was a mechanic for the Port of New Orleans. On August 23, 2007, Hellmers injured his lower back while changing a tire as part of his duties at work. He required hospitalization and surgery at Tulane University Hospital and Clinic (“Tulane”). Worker’s compensation benefits were paid to Hellmers by the Port. Tulane sent the Port invoices totaling $118,000.00. The Port made some payments but not the total amount owed. 

Hellmers re-injured his lower back while changing a truck battery on January 13, 2009. Again, Hellmers was hospitalized at Tulane, and the Port paid worker’s compensation benefits. Tulane billed for this treatment, but once again, the Port didn’t pay the total bill.

toronto_skyline_early_morning-1024x577A dilatory exception for prematurity is defined in the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 926(A). There are many reasons why a lawsuit may be premature, or in other words, ripe for a dilatory exception of prematurity. A case may be premature when it is too early in a dispute for the court to have the authority to rule on it. A lawsuit may be premature if there is another administrative body that the case should go to beforehand. The legal issues of prematurity and dilatory exceptions are shown below in a lawsuit from St. Tammany parish.

A Nestle Holdings employee was injured during his employment, and Nestle received a large bill from Lakeview Regional Medical Center (LRMC) for surgery on the employee. Nestle responded by sending back about 10% of the original price, expecting LRMC to initiate an administrative action, which would give Nestle a chance to argue for a lesser price. However, when LRMC did nothing to protest the partial payment, Nestle filed a complaint with the Office of Worker’s Compensation (OWC), a judicial body. OWC rejected the complaint and granted LRMC’s claim of a dilatory exception of prematurity; Nestle appealed the OWC decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the OWC decision to dismiss the complaint due to prematurity. The court first examined Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 926(A)(1), reasoning that it allows for a dilatory exception objection of prematurity to be brought before the litigation commences. The court held that this objection may be used in lawsuits where the law or contract allows for a procedure for the party to seek out administrative relief before resorting to filing a lawsuit. If this exception is raised, the person who raises it bears the initial burden of showing that another remedy or procedure applies, and therefore the lawsuit is premature. For example, this can be done by filing a copy of the contract between the parties into the record, assuming the contract discusses a prelawsuit procedure. After the existence of the alternative remedy is established, the burden then shifts to the other party to show that the specific remedy or procedure has been exhausted.

skeleton_bone_medical_doctor-1024x768Injuries sustained on the job present challenges for the employee and employer, especially when multiple sites of injury are involved. In addition, injuries all over the body can require different medical treatments for each affected area. Specialized treatments such as a spinal cord stimulator can be recommended to alleviate pain to an injured worker. However, a workers compensation insurance company may not be amenable to pay for such treatment. The following case addresses the question, can a workers compensation claimant receive spinal cord stimulator treatment in Louisiana?

Byron Gulley sustained injuries to his head, shoulder, wrist, back, knee, hip, foot and ankle as a result of a golf cart accident while working for the Hope Youth Ranch in June 2009. The claimant was seeing a pain management specialist, Dr. Chad Domangue, who recommended a spinal cord stimulator trial because other medications and treatments failed to address Gulley’s significant low back adequately, left hip, and leg pain. As such, Dr. Domangue filed the proper form requesting this treatment pursuant to the Medical Treatment Guidelines. This request was ultimately denied by the employer’s insurance carrier. Gulley brought the denial to the Medical Director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation, which also rejected the request and the Workers’ Compensation District two affirmed the denial. 

Thereafter, Dr. Domangue continued to see and treat Gulley. Even though the spinal cord stimulator could not address all areas of Gulley’s pain, he believed it was the best option to treat his most significant pain areas. As such, he filed a second request, which was also denied by the employer’s insurance carrier. Gulley then sought approval for the procedure from the Medical Director, who again denied approval because the topography of the claimant’s pain was not amenable to stimulation coverage. 

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