Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

texas_flag_texas_flag-1024x683The importance of legal contracts cannot be understated. Though we generally sign contracts on social media or online shopping websites without ever looking at their provisions, it is essential to carefully look at contractual provisions in insurance policies and the like. For example, you never want to discover that your injury is not covered by insurance after you have been injured. 

Adam O’Bannon, a Louisiana resident, was an employee of Moriah Technologies, Inc. (“Moriah”), a Texas corporation. In June of 2012, O’Bannon injured himself while working as a Moriah employee. Texas Mutual Insurance Company (“TMIC”) was Moriah’s workers’ compensation insurer. However, TMIC did not provide any workers’ compensation to O’Bannon.

Bannon argued that TMIC owed him workers’ compensation and filed a claim with the Louisiana Offer of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”) against TMIC. At court, TMIC asked the workers’ compensation judge (“WCJ”) to dismiss O’Bannon’s claim through a motion for summary judgment because its policy did not provide coverage to Moriah for O’Bannon’s workplace injury. The WCJ agreed and dismissed O’Bannon’s case. O’Bannon appealed, arguing that the WCJ erred in holding that TMIC did not have a policy that provided O’Bannon workers’ compensation. 

workers compensation lawyer louisianaThere are many ways that someone can be denied workers’ compensation benefits. Sometimes it is determined that the accident giving rise to the injury never occurred, other times the claim is filed too late, and in other cases the capacity in which the worker was hired determines eligibility for benefits. The last scenario is illustrated in a case brought to the New Orleans Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”) in 2016.

Federico Martinez was among several workers hired by Jarislov Rames to lower a washer/dryer unit from Rames’ second floor apartment to street level. During the operation, one of the cords used to lower the unit broke loose and lacerated Martinez’s hand.

After the job was finished, Rames drove Martinez to the emergency room and paid the up-front $500 fee for Martinez to receive stitches. When Martinez demanded payment for the washer/dryer job, Rames withheld the $500 from Martinez’s pay and told Martinez that the rest of the emergency room fee would be deducted from future payments.

forklift accident lawyerWhat may seem like a simple worker’s compensation claim can turn into a surprisingly complicated dispute over the nature of the injury and the payment of benefits. For many years, Reginald Crockerham worked as a forklift operator for Weyerhaeuser Holden Wood Products in Tangipahoa Parish. After almost two years of lower back injuries caused by the forklift’s bad tires, suspension, and seating, Crockerham underwent discectomy surgery and a two-level fusion.

Crockerham filed a claim for benefits with the Louisiana Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC). The OWC found that Crockerham proved that he suffered a work-related accident within the scope of his employment with Weyerhaeuser and awarded him temporary total disability (TTD) benefits as well as past and future medical expenses. Weyerhaeuser appealed to Louisiana’s Court of Appeal for the First Circuit.

Weyerhaeuser argued that Crockerham’s injury did not meet the legal definition of “accident” under state law. In a workers’ compensation case, the claimant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that an accident occurred on the job and harm came from it. An “accident” is an unforeseeable event that occurs suddenly — with or without human fault — and directly causes an injury. The injury must be more than slow deterioration or gradual weakening. La. R.S. 23:1201

adult-blur-boss-business-288477-1024x768The equivalence of “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s” in the law is making sure to comply with court procedural rules. One such basic civil court procedure rule is proper service. Proper service is critical in establishing that a court has legal jurisdiction over a defendant. The defendant has a right to know that they are being sued, and they have the right to be present at any hearing or to appear through an attorney. Without proper service, a court may dismiss a lawsuit. One can have a valid and strong claim for a lawsuit, but without proper compliance with court rules, the case may never even be heard. The importance of following procedure is highlighted in this Workers’ Compensation case heard in the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The issue revolves around whether appellant A-1 St. Bernard Taxi & Delivery (“A-1”) was (1) properly served and (2) whether the Office of Workers’ Compensation erred in rendering judgment in Veronica Gordon’s claims for compensation. Ms. Gordon was involved in a car accident on May 2, 2015, while working for defendant A-1 as an independent contractor. She suffered injuries to her left arm, shoulder, neck, and back and filed a claim for compensation on August 7, 2015 (the “Original Claim”).

The Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) notified Ms. Gordon’s attorney that service on A-1 was unable to be performed at the address Ms. Gordon listed an incorrect address for A-1 in her Original Claim. Ms. Gordon listed a second incorrect address on an amended claim that also led to the failure of service. Ms. Gordon filed a motion to appoint a special process server and filed a second amended claim. In this claim, she stated that the special process server tried and failed several times to serve A-1. The OWC appointed the Secretary of State as A-1’s agent for service of process. The claim was sent to A-1’s last known address and the case moved for trial. Neither A-1 nor counsel for A-1 was present. The OWC ruled in favor of Ms. Gordon and denied A-1’s motion for a new trial, which A-1 appealed.

2-man-on-construction-site-during-daytime-159306-1-1024x683What happens if you are exposed to something dangerous at work?  In the not too distant past, there would be no hope of restoration and only devastation. Today, with gratitude to some excellent lawyers and lawmakers, there are legal protections for people who are exposed to hazardous working conditions.  Negligent companies can still be required to pay damages even for a 10-year-old oil spill. In several cases from a 2006 Lake Charles oil spill, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a damage award despite the award being significantly higher than other damage awards in similar cases.  

In 2006, seven men were working several different jobs at the Calcasieu Refining Company (“Refinery”).  On June 16, 2006, CITGO Petroleum Corporation (“CITGO”) experienced a slop oil release at its refinery on Lake Charles.  As a result, 17 million gallons of wastewater was released with large portions of heavy oil reaching the Calcasieu Refinery (“Refinery”) and remaining there for weeks.  It took two months for the oil to be cleaned up. In the interim, the seven men working at the Refinery were exposed to the slop oil almost daily.  

The men worked for three different companies doing various jobs.  Some worked directly on the clean-up effort and came into contact with the oil.  Others were working on building projects at the Refinery or as supervisors. Despite different experiences with the slop oil at the Refinery, the men all experienced similar symptoms to the exposure.  All of the men complained of severe headaches and sinus problems. Most of the men also complained of intestinal problems. The men were all exposed to a toxic substance containing a well-known carcinogen called benzene.  There is no medical treatment for benzene exposure and all the men reported feeling afraid of developing cancer from the exposure. Moreover, there was no medical treatment for their ailments at all. Time could only ease the symptoms.  

police-men-with-a-group-of-people-in-a-rally-2834169-684x1024Courts are often overflowing with frivolous lawsuits. In order to remedy this, defendants can file an exception for no right of action. If granted, the lawsuit is dismissed because the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support the claim. 

Emanuel Smith III worked as a police officer for a housing agency in New Orleans, before being terminated by his supervisor for sleeping while on duty. Prior to his termination, Mr. Smith alleges that Silas Phipps, Jr. received information about Mr. Smith illegally from a information center for crimes and that Mr. Phipps distributed the information to coworkers, causing Mr. Smith to suffer from various injuries, including shame and humiliation. Because of this, Mr. Smith filed a complaint before his termination. 

Because Mr. Smith filed a formal complaint, he brought a lawsuit against HANO (the housing agency), his supervisors, Messrs. Anderson and Fortner, and Mr. Phipps, asserting that his action constituted whistleblowing and thus that he was terminated wrongfully. The defendants filed peremptory exceptions of no right of action. The trial court then granted the exception for not having a right to action, dismissing Mr. Smith’s claims. Mr. Smith appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the trial court granted the Defendants’ exceptions in error.

abundance-bank-banking-banknotes-259027-1024x683Perhaps one of the biggest myths about the law is that you can bring a lawsuit anywhere about anything. In reality, a court must have jurisdiction in order to hear a case. Jurisdiction is the power of a legal body to make binding decisions over the people involved.  In addition to having jurisdiction over the parties to the case, the court must also have subject matter jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction is the ability for a court to hear the type of lawsuit brought to it. As one East Baton Rouge man found out, contesting a court’s subject matter jurisdiction can cause quite a headache. 

Carey Holliday brought a lawsuit against the Louisiana Workforce Commission (“LWC”) in December 2015 for wages allegedly unpaid. Specifically, Holliday claimed that he deserved $5,868.34 of “premium pay” for performing administrative work which he was not paid for.

LWC claimed in response that the Civil Service Commission never authorized the premium pay and, therefore, they are not required to pay Holliday.  LWC stated that premium pay approvals are under the Louisiana State Civil Service Commission’s exclusive jurisdiction and that there was no subject matter jurisdiction of the district court to hear the case. Further, LWC claimed that Louisiana Wage Payment Act, which Holliday had filed his claims under, did not apply.

63-Email_8_1_2019-pictureLearning of an illness is always terrifying. But what happens when it affects your everyday life and your ability to work? Hopefully, for most, the illness passes quickly. However, for people with chronic health issues, extended absences from work may cause issues at work, despite statutory protections. Experienced attorneys can help you navigate labor and employment law, but knowing your rights is the first step. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a New Orleans city employee in one such case of chronic illness.  

Ms. Wilsons’ struggle began in February of 2015, when she stopped reporting to work as a Title Abstractor at the Department of Property Management for the City of New Orleans. She soon produced documentation from her doctor. This documentation indicated that she was undergoing treatments that would prevent her from working, but that she would be reassessed in late March. In March and April, Ms. Wilson provided further documentation regarding her inability to return to work at that time.      

The situation in the Department of Property Management became tense during Ms. Wilson’s medical leave. Employees bore the weight of her absence, struggling to timely process work orders. This strain became the catalyst for her removal.      

police-blue-sky-security-surveillance-96612-1024x683Injuries on the job can be devastating. Though the injuries themselves may be painful, the loss of a livelihood that may follow can be even worse. As a result, Louisiana has implemented workers’ compensation programs in order to provide relief for employees who are injured on the job. However, there are caveats that exist and not all injured employees may receive workers’ compensation. 

While training for employment as a security guard for Covenant Services Worldwide (“Covenant”), Bonnie Frazier suffered a rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder. Frazier underwent three surgeries on her right shoulder. Covenant paid for Frazier’s treatments. Despite her surgeries, Dr. Felix Savoie restricted Frazier from lifting five pounds over her head, twenty pounds from her waist to her shoulder, and thirty pounds in any circumstances. 

Fraizer eventually accepted a security officer position that entailed driving and periodic running. One day at work, Frazier asked her manager Vicki Bryant if she could leave work because she was suffering from severe shoulder pain. Bryant sent for another security guard named Jill Delatte. Before letting Delatte take over, Frazier wrote a note explaining that she was leaving work because of severe shoulder pain. In a recorded statement, Delatte reported that Bryant told Frazier that if she was going to quit, she was to leave her vest, badge and uniform. Frazier gave her vest and badge with Delatte and never showed up to work again. Almost a year later, Frazier filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation Form 1008, arguing that Covenant had unlawfully terminated her supplemental earnings benefits (“SEBs”). The Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”) judge, however, found that because Frazier herself had terminated her employment, Covenant did not owe her any SEBs. 

two-person-doing-surgery-inside-room-1250655-1024x683Workers’ compensation programs may provide you with some relief for an injury. However, it is important to note that depending on your recovery and other factors, you could be taken off such programs. This is because legislators want people to work if they are able. Though many people who depend on workers’ compensation programs truly deserve it, some people abuse the system. 

Lisa Tassin was a registered nurse at Touro Infirmary (“Touro”). Unfortunately, while moving an operating room table, she fell and landed on her tailbone, causing injuries to her lower back. Prior to this accident, Tassin was involved in two car accidents that resulted in chronic neck pain. Because of her work-related accident, she received temporary total disability benefits (“TTDs”) from Touro. 

Tassin was treated and examined by a slew of doctors. Though the doctors agreed that Tassin’s pain was genuine, they disagreed whether the origin of her pain was the work-related injury or her prior car accidents. Five years after the accident, Tassin filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation against Touro because Touro reduced her TTDs to supplemental earnings benefits (“SEBs”). Touro claimed that Tassin was no longer disabled and could earn wages equal to those before her work-related injury. The matter was taken to a workers’ compensation judge who found that Tassin was no longer entitled to TTDs because she was unable to show that she was incapable of any employment. Furthermore, the judge ruled that she was also not entitled to SEBs because she could work in other health care positions if she had not let her nursing license lapse. 

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