Justia Louisiana Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Griggs v. Bounce N’ Around Inflatables, LLC
Bounce N’ Around Inflatables (“BNA”) is a party rental business that rents a variety of inflatables for social events. BNA hired Austin Griggs (“Austin”) as a helper to assist in the delivering and cleaning of the inflatables. Austin, then age fifteen, was standing on an inflatable as it was lifted to the rack by a forklift. Austin fell to the ground from the forklift, and was further injured when the inflatable fell and hit him on the back. Following the injury, BNA’s workers’ compensation insurer paid Austin workers’ compensation and medical benefits. Austin eventually returned to work at BNA, with his mother’s permission. The underlying litigation arose when Austin’s mother, individually and on behalf of Austin, filed suit against BNA, its owner and insurer, seeking to recover tort damages arising out of the injury. At the conclusion of trial, the district court awarded plaintiffs $125,000 in general damages and $24,517 in special damages, plus legal interest and costs. The district court found defendants illegally employed Austin because they failed to obtain an employment certificate, and that he was engaged in an illegal task (working with power-driven machinery) at the time of the accident. In finding the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers’ compensation law did not apply, the district court relied on Ewert v. Georgia Casualty & Surety Co., 548 So.2d 358 (1989), and Patterson v. Martin Forest Products, Inc., 787 So.2d 311, for the proposition that workers’ compensation exclusivity provisions did not control over child labor laws, and a minor’s illegal employment did not amount to an election of remedies under the workers’ compensation law. Defendants appealed. The Court of Appeal, First Circuit reversed in part and affirmed in part, dismissing plaintiffs’ tort claims with prejudice. The court of appeal found Austin’s claims were subject to the exclusive remedy provision contained in the workers’ compensation law. In reaching this conclusion, the court of appeal explicitly declined to follow the holdings of Ewert and Patterson, instead relying on Noble v. Blume Tree Services, Inc., 650 So.2d 252, which held that an illegally-hired minor was subject to the exclusivity provisions. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve this split in the circuits, and held that a minor who is illegally hired and engaged in a prohibited task at the time of his injury is subject to the exclusive remedy of the workers’ compensation law. View "Griggs v. Bounce N' Around Inflatables, LLC" on Justia Law
Jackson v. Family Dollar Stores of Louisiana, Inc.
In this workers’ compensation case, the issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court’s review centered on whether the employer’s appeal, taken with devolutive appeal delays but outside of the suspensive appeal delays, was timely under the special provisions of La. R.S. 23:1310.5(C). While the Court acknowledged La. R.S. 23:1310.5 “is not a model of legislative clarity,” the Court broadly interpreted the statute to find nothing specified the time period in which this appeal have to be filed. The Court found the appeal should have been maintained as timely, but because the appeal was devolutive in nature, the judgment awarding benefits was subject to immediate execution. View "Jackson v. Family Dollar Stores of Louisiana, Inc." on Justia Law
Robinson v. Bd. of Supervisors University of Louisiana System
In a suit for alleged age discrimination brought by plaintiff, James Robinson against his employer, the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System (ULL), the Louisiana Supreme Court granted review of the district court’s judgment on a jury verdict finding that ULL discriminated against Robinson based on his age and awarded him damages. After reviewing the record of these proceedings, as to liability, the Supreme Court found no legal or manifest error in the jury’s verdict in favor of plaintiff; thus, the Court affirmed the jury’s finding of age discrimination in favor of Robinson. However, as to damages, the Court found that the amount of the jury’s damage award of $367,918.00 was not supported by the record. Therefore, the Court amended the judgment in part and affirmed the jury’s damage award as amended herein. View "Robinson v. Bd. of Supervisors University of Louisiana System" on Justia Law
Clavier v. Coburn Supply Company, Inc.
The workers’ compensation claimant in this case, Paula Clavier, injured her neck, shoulder, and back while attempting to lift what she thought was a lightweight box, but which actually contained a heavy cast iron sink. The accident occurred within the course and scope of her employment with Coburn Supply Co., Inc. (“Coburn”). Clavier sought medical treatment on the day of the accident, and she continued to receive treatment as of the hearing date. A work status report by Clavier’s treating physician, defendants sought to have her examined by a physician of their choice. Clavier refused to attend a functional capacity evaluation (FCE), scheduled by defendants at the Fontana Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Defendants filed a “Motion to Compel Functional Capacity Evaluation or Alternatively to Reduce Benefits or in the Further Alternative for Appointment of an independent medical evaluation (IME). The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review to determine whether an employee has a right to select a non-physician medical provider to perform an FCE at the employer’s expense for the purpose of contesting the results of a prior FCE that was performed by an employer-referred physical therapist. An Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”) ruled in defendants’ favor, finding Clavier could not compel defendants to pay for an FCE by a physical therapist of her choosing. Finding no reversible error in the OWC judge’s ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Clavier v. Coburn Supply Company, Inc." on Justia Law
Burgess v. Sewerage & Water Bd. of New Orleans
In a workers’ compensation case, the claimant, Darvel Burgess, filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation after his employer, Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans (“S&WB”), refused to pay a $13,110.02 outstanding bill for prescription medications from Injured Workers Pharmacy (“IWP”). The underlying legal issue was whether the injured employee was entitled to his choice of pharmacy, or whether that right belonged to the employer under the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act (“LWCA”). The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review of this matter to resolve a split in the circuit courts of appeal on this issue. After review, the Supreme Court held the choice of pharmacy in a workers’ compensation case belongs to the employer. View "Burgess v. Sewerage & Water Bd. of New Orleans" on Justia Law
Borcik v. Crosby Tugs, LLC
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asked the Louisiana Supreme Court: “What is the meaning of ‘good faith’ as that term is used in the Louisiana Environmental Quality Act, Louisiana Revised Statutes 30:2027?” Eric Borcik was employed by Crosby Tugs, L.L.C. (Crosby) as a deckhand. In July 2010, he was transferred to the M/V NELDA FAYE. Borcik claims that the lead captain of the NELDA FAYE ordered him to dump waste oil into navigable waters and otherwise violate environmental laws over a period of three years. He further claims that he followed these orders. In May 2013, Borcik emailed Crosby’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). His email communicated that he had “concerns” that he stated “have all fallen on deaf ears” and expressed “fear [of] some form of retaliation.” He later met with the CAO in person. Borcik was transferred to another boat and later fired. Borcik contends he was fired in retaliation for his complaints; Crosby contends that Borcik was fired for insubordination. Borcik sued Crosby in October 2013, alleging retaliatory termination in violation of Louisiana Environmental Quality Act (“LEQA”), specifically claiming that Crosby violated the Louisiana Environmental Whistleblower Act. The Supreme Court answered the certified question: the term “good faith,” as used in R.S. 30:2027, means an employee is acting with an honest belief that a violation of an environmental law, rule, or regulation occurred. View "Borcik v. Crosby Tugs, LLC" on Justia Law
Huval v. Louisiana
Plaintiffs Todd Huval and Chad Boyer were former Louisiana State Troopers employed by the State of Louisiana, Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Office of State Police. In 2007, they were terminated based on an investigation which exposed alleged violations of employment policy and state law. Both were accused of providing confidential information to a third party. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to determine whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over tort claims stemming from the disciplinary action over which the State Police Commission presided. The lower courts concluded that subject matter jurisdiction was proper in district court. The Supreme Court agreed. View "Huval v. Louisiana" on Justia Law
Gulley v. Hope Youth Ranch
A workers’ compensation claimant sought review of a judgment from the Office of Workers’ Compensation affirming the decision of the Medical Director denying his physician’s request for trial of a spinal cord stimulator. The court of appeal affirmed the ruling of the Office of Workers’ Compensation that the claimant had failed to show the Medical Director’s decision was not in accordance with the Medical Treatment Guidelines. Because the Supreme Court found the Medical Director and the Office of Workers’ Compensation misinterpreted the language of Louisiana Administrative Code, and thus misapplied the Medical Treatment Guidelines on neurostimulation to the claimant’s case, it reversed the lower court’s ruling and found the Office of Workers’ Compensation erred in affirming the decision of the Medical Director. View "Gulley v. Hope Youth Ranch" on Justia Law
Castille v. St. Martin Parish Sch. Bd.
Plaintiff Gerald Castille worked as a school bus driver for the St. Martin Parish School Board. During his first few years, plaintiff drove two "undesirable" routes, as they "required the assigned bus driver to travel very long distances while trying to maintain a safe and orderly bus populated with children from families that were known to have little or no respect for the bus operators. . . ." In 1980, plaintiff was assigned to the "Highway 31 Route," which was initially considered undesirable, plaintiff asserted it changed over time and became more desirable as the route became less populated. While driving that route for nearly thirty years, plaintiff claimed to have developed relationships with the students and their parents, noting the route gave him "a sense of purpose and dignity." In the spring of 2008, the costs of diesel fuel began to rise, and the School Board was forced to take steps to save money by redrawing and reassigning bus routes. Prior to the start of the 2008-2009 school year, the bus drivers received their new route assignments. The School Board assigned plaintiff a combined "Levee-Portage Route," two of his old routes, with no change in his salary, health benefits, or retirement. Plaintiff objected to this new route, but claimed the bus manager told him to try the route for a few weeks and come back if he was still unhappy. After two weeks, plaintiff requested to be returned to the Highway 31 route, but was told to deal with the current situation. He alerted his supervisors to the problems, but claim they took no action. According to plaintiff, he began experiencing anxiety and depression problems during this time. His problems continued until 2011, when a more desirable vacant route became available. Plaintiff filed the instant suit against the School Board, alleging the School Board violated La. R.S. 17:493.14 in assigning the bus routes in 2008. The Supreme Court granted certiorari in this matter to consider whether the court of appeal erred in awarding plaintiff damages for bad faith breach of contract. The Court found the court of appeal erred in awarding bad faith damages and therefore reversed that portion of the court of appeal's judgment, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Castille v. St. Martin Parish Sch. Bd." on Justia Law
LaFayette Bone & Joint Clinic v. Louisiana United Business SIF
Both of the injured employees in these cases, Charles Morris and Charles Poole, were treated at the Lafayette Bone & Joint Clinic (“LB&J”); Morris was treated by Dr. Louis Blanda and Poole by Dr. John Cobb. Louisiana United Business SIF (“LUBA”), sent letters to LB&J and its doctors stating that LUBA would no longer pay for prescription medications directly dispensed by LB&J and directing LB&J doctors to issue future prescriptions for the instant injured employees that could be filled at local retail pharmacies. Despite these notices and subsequent denials of requests for reimbursement of dispensed prescription medications, LB&J doctors continued to dispense prescription medications to these injured employee patients throughout 2008 and to submit requests for reimbursement to LUBA. LUBA declined payment for these requests, citing its prior notice. LB&J and the treating physicians thereafter filed disputed claim forms with the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC), seeking to recover the cost of the medications dispensed, along with penalties and attorney fees. Following a joint trial in these two cases, the OWC judge ruled that the plaintiff/health care providers’ recovery for medications dispensed after the 2008 notice were nonemergency treatment dispensed without consent of the payor. Further, the OWC judge found that no penalties or attorney fees were warranted because LUBA had clearly advised the plaintiff/health care providers that no further reimbursement would be made for prescription medications dispensed by LB&J doctors after the date of the notice. The plaintiff/health care providers appealed, seeking an increase in the amount awarded and an award of penalties and attorney fees. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted writs to review the appellate court decisions, which awarded unreimbursed prescription medication costs beyond the $750 limitation set forth in LSA-R.S. 23:1142(B) and awarded penalties and attorney fees. The Court reversed the appellate court's modification of the amount awarded by the OWC, and affirmed in part, the decision to award penalties and attorney fees. View "LaFayette Bone & Joint Clinic v. Louisiana United Business SIF" on Justia Law