Workers’ compensation provides an avenue for workers injured on the job to receive the compensation a worker deserves. But what happens when a resident of one state is injured while working for a company in another state? A recent case out of the Second Circuit Court of Appeal for Louisiana addressed this issue when a Monroe, Louisiana worker, working for an Arkansas company, was injured in Mississippi.
Levi Williams was injured in Mississippi while driving a truck for Morris Transportation, Inc. (“Morris Transportation”), an Arkansas company. After the accident, Mr. Williams applied for and was granted, workers’ compensation benefits in Arkansas. Those benefits went away after Morris Transportation released Mr. Williams from work. Subsequently, Mr. Williams sought workers’ compensation benefits in Louisiana. Morris Transportation contested Mr. Williams’s request and the matter went before a Workers’ Compensation Judge (“WCJ”). At a hearing, the WCJ ruled in favor of Mr. Williams, holding that Mr. Williams was entitled to Louisiana workers’ compensation benefits. Under Louisiana law, an injured employee is entitled to workers’ compensation when injured while working outside the state if the employment contract is made in Louisiana. La. R.S. 23:1035.1 (2016). The WCJ found that the contract, in this case, was made in Louisiana and therefore, Mr. Williams was entitled to Louisiana workers’ compensation benefits. Morris Transportation, disagreeing with the WCJ’s assessment, appealed the decision.
On appeal, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal examined whether the employment contract between Mr. Williams occurred in Louisiana. Both Mr. Williams and Morris Transportation dispute the facts surrounding the formation of the employment contract According to Mr. Williams, he previously worked for Morris Transportation, but left to work for another employer. A little while after Mr. Williams left Morris Transportation, he called Morris Transportation and was told by an employee that he could come back and work for his former employer. Mr. Williams claimed that during this call he was told by by Morris Transportation that he could “come back.” Mr. Williams testified that the day after the phone call he drove, signed a driver qualification form, and began to working. Morris Transportation, conversely, argued that the phone conversation between Mr. Williams and itself did not form a contract. It claimed that the phone conversation could not constitute an employment contract because Mr. Williams had not gone through the employment process required before Morris Transportation hires an employee.
The Second Circuit, agreeing with Morris Transportation, reversed the WCJ. It examined the intent of Mr. Williams and Morris Transportation to determine when the employment agreement was formed. See Hughes v. T.G. Mercer Consulting Servs., 26 So.3d 954, 958 (La. Ct. App. 2009). The Second Circuit also examined the process required before an employee could begin working. The court emphasized that Mr. Williams called and sought out Morris Transportation for employment. Further, Mr. Williams had worked for Morris Transportation before and understood the hiring process it used. Additionally, Mr. Williams had to go to Arkansas to complete this process, pick up the truck, and begin working. The Second Circuit also emphasized that it is in both Louisiana and Arkansas interests that employers should not have to worry about being subjected to multiple states’ workers’ compensation laws when an employee is injured. Taking the facts and policy implications into account, the Second Circuit held that the contract was made under Arkansas law and thus Arkansas workers’ compensation laws applied.
This case is an excellent example of the complexity of issues that arise when an employee is injured while working at a job outside of his or her home state. The counsel of a good lawyer is necessary so that the parties involved know their rights and duties. Courts will often interpret the laws and policies of the states at issue in a way that will resolve the situation so that injured employee gets the compensation he or she deserves while not subjecting the employer to multiple or unanticipated lawsuits. As Mr. Williams’s case shows, the policy is to both protect injured workers while also promoting the ability of employers to hire employees in other states.
Additional Sources: LEVI WILLIAMS VERSUS MORRIS TRANSPORTATION, ET AL
Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Aaron Ochse
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