Articles Posted in Workplace Accidents

2015_ford_police_utility_0-scaledRandom drug testing is common practice for certain jobs. What remedy does a police officer have when he takes a morphine pill for pain and is randomly selected for a drug test the following day when he comes into work?

Officer Mario Cole was randomly chosen to undergo a standard drug screening for his job at the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). When he took the test, he tested positive for morphine. As a result, Cole was suspended pending investigation by the NOPD. Sergeant Lesia Latham Mims interviewed Cole and his fiancée as part of her investigation. Cole claimed he injured himself while lifting weights the day before. His fiancée gave him one of her prescription pills for his pain. Cole alleged he believed it was a regular pain reliever. The department next conducted a pre-disciplinary hearing. At the hearing, it was decided Cole’s employment would be terminated for violating NOPD rules against drug use. Cole appealed. 

On his appeal, Cole argued the decision to terminate his employment was an abuse of discretion because: 1) the board found him to be under the influence of morphine when he came to work, 2) the board found there was a relationship between the violation and his ability to operate as a public servant, and 3) his termination was found to be the proper course of action for his offense.

farm_mountain_farm_meadow-scaledAn employee injured at work while performing the functions of her job is generally entitled to worker’s compensation. But what about a worker injured on the job by the intentional act of a fellow employee? An action for recovery due to employer negligence could be a better option.

Louisiana worker’s compensation law does not provide coverage for employees injured during an incident unrelated to their workplace activities, for example, an altercation between co-workers arising out of personal issues. R.S. 23:1031E

Instead, an employer may be liable for negligence if it had reason to believe its employee(s) could be attacked at work but failed to intervene. Posecai v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.. Courts will consider whether the employer had information suggesting an incident might occur and, if so, when it was received and what level of detail was available to help determine the appropriate response. See Carr.

car_taxi_cab_cab_0-scaledWhen people are injured at work, they expect to be compensated for an extended period. However, worker’s compensation can be hard to recover. So how does a pre-existing injury affect your workers’ compensation claim? The following lawsuit from Metairie, Louisiana, helps answer this question. 

Sharon Mangiaracina suffered a work-related injury to her shoulder and thumb when she fell from an allegedly defective chair while working for Avis Budget Group, Inc. (“Avis”). Mangiaracina claimed the shoulder injury already existed but was worsened after the accident. The fall led to surgery on the injured shoulder. Due to the pre-existing nature of the shoulder injury, Avis and its insurer, CNA, refused to pay for the surgery. As a result, Mangiaracina’s health insurance paid for most of her medical bills, and she sustained some out-of-pocket expenses. She filed a claim for compensation for medical and indemnity benefits from Avis and CNA. 

The worker’s compensation judge found Mangiaracina suffered from a pre-existing injury that was worsened by the work-related injury for which she deserved compensation. Accordingly, the judge awarded Mangiaracina weekly temporary total disability benefits. Avis was also ordered to pay for all medical and travel expenses from the sustained injuries. Therefore, a pre-existing injury did not affect Mangiaracina’s workers’ compensation claim in this case.

doctor_dentist_dental_clinic-scaledWhen injured on the job, your doctor knows best until you get a second opinion. While your primary care doctor may advise you to recover instead of resume working right away, if you get a second opinion that finds you capable of working, that second opinion can trump your primary care doctor’s opinion. 

In the Louisiana civil service world, an employee cannot refuse to go to work if they have not presented a viable reason for their inability to work. If a civil servant refuses to work, they could be terminated. While our court system sympathizes with people injured on the job, if one doctor says you can work, you need to present testimony from a doctor that you cannot work at the pre-termination hearing or risk losing your job. The following lawsuit out of New Orleans helps answer this question; when do you need your doctor’s testimony to win your workplace injury lawsuit?

Kerry West was injured on the job while a classified employee with twenty-five years of experience working for the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans (S&WB). Although  West’s primary care physician ordered him to recover and not return to work, S&WB sent West to get a second opinion. This second opinion found West was capable of “light duty.” Accordingly, s&WB assigned West to a light-duty position for the duration of his recovery, but West followed the advice of his primary care physician and did not return to work. 

disabled_parking_space_parking-scaledWhen you are injured on the job, it’s not always your employer’s or fellow employee’s fault. If you are injured while working by a third party, there are rules to follow when settling your claims. Following those guidelines is important because if you don’t, you may alter the workers’ compensation benefits owed to you.

Below is a story of one worker’s workplace injury and his path to physical and financial recovery. This case shows the importance of getting authorization from your workers’ compensation carrier before settling with third parties. It also helps answers the question; When does the date of disability start for a workers’ compensation claim?

While driving at work in early August 2012, Clyde Tolley was injured in a car accident. He continued to work until he was fired. Tolley then moved to Florida, where his injuries worsened. Tolley consulted a Florida doctor who recommended seeing an orthopedic specialist. Unfortunately, Tolley waited a year before engaging with the specialist. 

ford_e_series_wagon_10-1-scaledIf you are walking down the aisle of a store and fall and injure yourself, you may think you have a winning lawsuit. However, that is not always the case. A recent lawsuit out of Gretna, Louisiana, establishes what a plaintiff needs to prove when filing a slip-and-fall lawsuit in Louisiana. 

Terry Collins was walking down one of the lumber aisles in a Home Depot in Gretna, Louisiana when he slipped and fell on a liquid substance spilled on the floor. Home Depot and ISS Facility Services, Inc. had a Maintenance Services Agreement and before Collins fell, ISS employees used a floor-cleaning machine around where Collins slipped. Following the accident, Collins and his wife filed a lawsuit against Home Depot and ISS.

Home Depot moved for summary judgment, asking the court to decide in its favor based on the current facts. Home Depot argued under La. R.S. 9:2800.6. Collins failed to prove Home Depot had actual or constructive notice, meaning Home Depot employees were actually aware of or should have been aware of the spilled liquid in the aisle. 

office_fax_phone_1645312-scaledAfter a workplace accident, an employee may be flustered, but it is essential that the employee promptly becomes knowledgeable about court requirements and deadlines. If a claim is not filed within an allocated timeline, the claimant may be barred from bringing the claim forward. The following case out of Jefferson Parish shows why, if you’re fax filing a lawsuit, you must follow the rules precisely. 

On January 9, 2014, Mr. Palazola fell from a raised platform while in the course and scope of his maintenance job. About a year later, on January 6, 2015, he filed a facsimile petition for damages with the 24th Judicial District Court for Jefferson Parish. On January 23, 2015, the clerk’s office received a copy of Mr. Palazola’s petition with formatting differences from the previously filed facsimile petition.

The defendants, IMC Consulting, Landry Construction, and Cali & LaPlace Engineers, responded by filing an exception of prescription because Mr. Palazola’s facsimile did not meet the requirements outlined in La. R.S. 13:850. According to Louisiana Revised Statute 13:850, facsimile transmission provides that:

workers_road_workers_site-scaledEmployment law disputes are very fact-specific inquiries. Judges, especially workers’ compensation judges, are typically well-equipped to handle these cases. But when a judge mishandles the facts or misinterprets the law having an excellent attorney in your corner helps in the appeal process. For the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans (“SWBNO”), the appeal detailed below involves several issues that SWBNO argues were in error based on the workers’ compensation judge’s decision.

To provide important background information, this case involved a former employee, Catherine Johnson (“Johnson”), who was hired by SWBNO in April 2013 as a probationary employee, meaning she was not considered a full-time employee during the six months after she started the job. However, while Johnson was still in this designated probationary period, she was injured on the job during her employment with SWBNO. About a month before Johnson’s probationary period was set to end, SWBNO held a pre-termination hearing that determined Johnson displayed a poor work performance unrelated to her injury, which caused her employment to be terminated.

Johnson subsequently filed a disputed claim for compensation against SWBNO with the Office of Workers’ Compensation that included a request regarding penalties for failure to timely reimburse mileage expenses, among other payments for wages and benefits. SWBNO denied the claims, and a hearing ensued before the workers’ compensation judge.

building_hospital_enschede_928636-scaledPeople may be fired for a variety of reasons. Often a dismissed employee feels the termination was unjust or racially based. Bringing a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is difficult. A plaintiff must present evidence for a prima facie case of discrimination to survive summary judgment. The following case out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, demonstrates the difficulty of doing so.

David Williams, an African-American man, worked for Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health Systems, Inc., before being terminated in November 2012. Williams felt the firing was unfair and that he had claims to bring against the hospital. Williams’ lawsuit asserted racial discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII and U.S.C. § 1981. 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The Federal District Court granted summary judgment for Our Lady Health on both claims. That ruling caused Williams’s case to be dismissed, so he appealed the ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

On appeal, the court must examine the district court’s granting of summary judgment and if the non-moving party has met their prima facie burden. Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no disputes of material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment in their favor as a matter of law.

calculator_calculation_insurance_1044172-scaledIf you were wrongfully terminated from a civil service position within your local government, you might be eligible to receive some compensation for your trouble. For example, say you are placed on suspension and are on track to be terminated. However, you later appeal that decision, and your suspension and termination are lifted. As a result, you may be allowed to reclaim back pay and exceptional pay for the time you were prohibited from working. The following case out of Plaquemines parish discusses the issues of back pay and exceptional pay and how they apply within a court proceeding. 

Loukisha A. Daisy applied for the position of Chief Internal Auditor at the Plaquemines Parish Government (PPG). Daisy was accepted on the condition that she complete all required courses and possess a CPA within one year of her hire date. Daisy worked for PPG for one year but did not obtain her CPA certification within that timeline. PPG moved to terminate her employment for this failure as well as two other non-critical mistakes on her part. Daisy was suspended until she had a predetermination hearing. After the suspension, Daisy was terminated. 

Daisy appealed her termination to the Plaquemines Parish Civil Service Commission.  The Commission reinstated her to her previous position but failed to award all of the back pay she sought in her initial appeal. Therefore, she appealed the Commission’s decision to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit court of appeals.

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