Articles Posted in Workplace Accidents

nuclear_waste_radioactive_trash-scaledEven in cases involving tragic factual situations, strict procedural requirements must be followed to prevail on your claim. This case involves the time limits in which you must file a lawsuit and the principle of contra non valentem, which is a rule that the time limit in which someone has to file a lawsuit does not start if the other person was hiding information that would allow them to bring their claim.

This case involves the tragic death of a husband and father, Julius Lennie. Tuboscope employed him for over thirty years. Various oil companies hired Tuboscope to clean and refurbish pipes and tubes used in the oilfield. The clean process involved the emission of a naturally occurring radioactive material. In 2010, after retiring, Lennie was diagnosed with lung cancer and died shortly thereafter. Almost four years later, his spouse and children filed a lawsuit against various companies that had hired Tuboscope.

His surviving family claimed Lennie had been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation while working, which caused his cancer and death. They alleged the companies knew naturally occurring radioactive materials were dangerous but had not warned Lennie or taken appropriate corrective actions. The Lennies argued they had filed the lawsuit after reading an article about radiation exposure in pipe yards, so they were not on notice of their claims until September 2013.

ladder_step_ladder_passage-scaledStatutory employer immunity is critical in determining liability and compensation for workplace injuries in workers’ compensation. The following case is an example where the court had to decide whether the defendant was entitled to statutory employer immunity under the dual contract theory provided for in La.R.S. 23:1061(A)(2). We will examine the facts of the case, the arguments presented by both parties and the court’s decision. We will also examine the legal framework surrounding statutory employer immunity and its impact on workers’ compensation cases.

The case involves Patrick Cummins, a worker hired by a subcontractor to perform its contract with R.A.H. Homes and Construction, LLC (“R.A.H.”), the defendant. The homeowners had contracted R.A.H. to construct a single-family home, including the installation of an attic HVAC system. Cummins became seriously injured when the attic access ladder malfunctioned, and he fell while performing the work required under R.A.H.’s contract with the homeowners.

Cummins sued several defendants, including R.A.H., in tort, alleging that R.A.H. was directly responsible for the improper installation of the attic ladder that led to the accident. In response, R.A.H. asserted an affirmative defense of statutory employer immunity under La.R.S. 23:1061(A)(2), claiming that a statutory relationship existed through the two-contract theory.

boxes_stack_boxes_stacking-scaledSummary judgment is designed to enable judicial expediency and cost-effectiveness in the courts. It is an important and complicated procedure that can occur repeatedly during litigation. When summary judgment is asserted repeatedly in the same case, how do parties prevail in their attempts to get or defeat summary judgment motions? The following case helps answer that question. 

Ozark Motor Lines transported a packed Ozark trailer from Restoration Hardware to Baton Rouge. In Baton Rouge, Exel Inc. received the trailer, and Exel employee, plaintiff, Alex Talbert, was injured by the boxes being unloaded from the trailer. Talbert then brought a personal injury suit against Restoration Hardware and Ozark for damages, arguing that the trailer was negligently packed and thus caused Talbert’s injuries. 

Restoration Hardware was dismissed from the lawsuit, and later, Ozark moved for summary judgment twice. The trial court denied the first motion, but the second motion was granted after Ozark submitted additional documents to the court. Talbert appealed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment for Ozark, arguing that issues of material fact remained and that the court should not have heard Ozark’s second motion. 

building_company_glass_building-scaledWhen an individual sustains an injury while on the job, the anticipation of receiving workers’ compensation to tide them over during their recovery is natural. Regrettably, situations arise where companies are unwilling to shoulder this responsibility. The scenario becomes more intricate when a parent company distances itself from its subsidiary’s actions, attempting to evade liability for workplace injuries. This particular Louisiana Court of Appeals case delves into corporate responsibility, illuminating the circumstances under which a parent company is held accountable for the safety measures enacted by its subsidiary entities.

Plaintiff, Truman Stanley, III, had his arm tragically severed at work when a defective oxygen cylinder exploded, and steel fragments broke off. He filed a personal injury lawsuit against Airgas USA seeking tort recovery. He later amended his complaint to include Airgas Inc., the parent company of Airgas USA, claiming it developed safety procedures and protocols and instructional materials/safety training that was inadequate and flawed, creating an unsafe workplace. Therefore, Stanley believed Airgas, Inc. should be liable in tort. The parent company moved for summary judgment stating it was immune from tort liability under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation exclusive-remedy provision. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant and granted summary judgment. Stanley appealed, claiming the trial court erred in finding the parent company immune from tort liability.

Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:1032 contains the exclusive-remedy provision under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act, which states the employer and anyone who may act as the employer are immune parties. However, for the immunity to apply, it “must have been engaged at the time of the injury in the normal course and scope of the employer’s business.” Under Louisiana Revised Statutes 23:13, an employer’s legal duties that cannot be delegated include providing safe working conditions for employees. That being said, providing a safe work environment falls within the course and scope of every employer’s business. If the parent company took on Airgas USA’s role, Airgas Inc. would be immune from tort liability.

supreme_court_building_washington_3_5-scaledLouisiana’s Workers’ Compensation fund exists to pay employees injured at work.  Payment can be used for medical care and lost wages.  When parties sign a settlement agreement on payment terms, an employee may assume payment is imminent.  In a recent case from Rapides Parish, an employee discovered some conditions in a settlement may delay payment.  

Mary Ortega sustained an injury while employed by Cantu Services.  Ortega filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation, and the parties entered a settlement agreement.  The parties settled for $120,000.  $56,049 of the total was allocated to a Medicare set-aside agreement (MSA) to cover future medical expenses related to the work injury. The MSA was filed with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for approval.  The parties agreed that if CMS did not approve the full amount in the MSA, the employer would adjust the amount paid in monetary benefits, so Ortega would still receive $120,000.  Several months after signing the agreement, Ortega had not received any payments.   She filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement plus a request for fees and penalties before the Office of Workers’ Compensation.   

The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) denied Ortega’s request because payment under the settlement agreement was conditioned on first getting approval from the MSA.   Pending approval suspended the statutory requirement of payment within thirty days.    Ortega appealed to the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal.     

inflatable_obstacle_course_1455632-scaledInjury in the workplace can usually be avoided with proper safety measures in place. Safety measures, however, become hard to enforce when minors and adults work in conjunction. This was the case for Austin Griggs, an illegally employed minor injured in a forklift accident while working.

Bounce N’ Around Inflatables, LLC (BNA) supplies rentable party inflatables for personal or corporate events. When not in use, the inflatables are stored on racks that are 10 feet high. To move the inflatables, a battery-operated pallet jack was required. Griggs began working for BNA at the age of 14. BNA employed about 12 minors at the time Griggs was injured. Griggs testified that he had never been told that a work permit was required to work at BNA.

On the day of injury, Griggs was helping another employee pick up and sort the inflatables. This required Griggs to get the inflatable onto the forklift, and then the other employee would use the forklift to move the inflatable into the rack. During this process, Griggs was required to use his weight to counterbalance the inflatable as the forklift lifted the inflatable upwards. Griggs testified that this was standard practice at BNA. During the lift, Griggs fell off the forklift. Then, the inflatable followed, landing on Griggs’s lower back. 

sugar_cane_fields_okinawa-scaledUnfortunately, accidents in the workplace are not uncommon. What happens, however, if you unknowingly signed an agreement making your employer immune from a liability claim? The following Lafourche Parish case outlines this predicament. 

In September 2013, Neville Patterson signed multiple documents with Raceland Raw Sugar, LLC (RRS) and Raceland Equipment Company, LLC (REC) to haul sugar cane for the former. Included in this paperwork was an indemnification agreement identifying Patterson as the contractor and RES and RRS as statutory employers. 

Two months later, Patterson created N-A-N Trucking, LLC (N-A-N) and started to operate his truck. Following this development, RRS began making checks from hauls payable to N-A-N. These checks were endorsed by Patterson, who continued to receive driver wages from REC. 

office_chair_meeting_room-scaledWhen you think about sexual harassment claims, the first thing that likely comes to mind is a superior harassing another employee. However, what happens if the superior instructs another employee to date a prospective client? 

Tyanne Davenport was hired to be the administrator at an Edward Jones Office. On multiple occasions, the office owner insulted, shouted at, and used profanity to describe Davenport. The owner’s comments eventually became sexual in nature. When the owner learned a wealthy prospective client wanted to date Davenport, the owner told Davenport to date the prospective client to receive a big bonus. Davenport said she already had a boyfriend and was not interested in dating the prospective client. The owner told her this about three additional times within the next month. One of the financial advisors made a comment about Davenport sending the prospective client some nude photos, which embarrassed and offended Davenport. Davenport never dated the prospective client. 

Davenport reported the incident with the comment about nude photos to the district manager, who forwarded the complaint to an associate relations representative. Davenport filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Although she referenced the incident involving comments about nude photos, she did not reference the manager’s offers to pay her a big bonus if she dated the prospective client. Over the next few months, Davenport met with a therapist who advised the company Davenport should not go back to the same office because of trauma from the incidents. She requested a transfer to another office, which was denied. Davenport eventually resigned. 

helicopter_adac_rescue_helicopter-scaledIf you do a favor for your boss outside of work and are injured, can you still sue for workers’ compensation benefits? This is a complex question dependent on the facts of a case. Workers’ compensation is only available for injuries suffered during employment. If the court finds that the favor was outside the scope of employment, an injured employee may only recover tort damages. In the following case, the appellate court reversed a finding of workers’ compensation in favor of tort liability. In this case, the injured worker fought against a reduction of award to offset the workers’ compensation benefits already paid to the plaintiff. 

LaFayette truck driver Tommie Hebert was employed by Industrial Helicopters, Inc. as a commercial fuel transporter for nearly 30 years. Industrial Helicopters primarily served as an aerial herbicide application company. The owner of Industrial Helicopters also owned Game Management, Inc. Game Management leased hunting land and operated deer tracking and capturing surveys. His boss’s son asked Herbert to work as a deer netter on a Game Management helicopter survey. During the survey, Herbert fell from the helicopter to the ground and was seriously injured. The status of workers’ compensation became muddled because of the dual businesses. 

Hebert was originally granted workers’ compensation benefits because he was found to be within the scope of his job at Industrial Helicopters when he fell. On appeal, Hebert was conversely found to be outside the scope of employment during the deer netting. Industrial Helicopters was only liable for tort damages based on this finding. Hebert additionally motioned for his court costs to be paid by the defendant. 

manzanar_relocation_center_manzanar_445-scaledBeing injured at work is never what you want to deal with. What’s worse is dealing with multiple independent medical examiners making opinions on your medical state. In the following case, the Louisiana Court of Appeal First Circuit addresses whether a medical examiner’s determination of maximum medical improvement is closely related to the worker’s condition and ability to work.

Ella Hamilton injured her neck and shoulders while moving trash bags into a dumpster while working as a custodian for GCA Services. Hamilton filed a workers’ compensation claim, and GCA Services paid indemnity and medical benefits to and on behalf of Hamilton in connection with her workers’ compensation claim. A dispute arose between the doctors that reviewed Hamilton’s alleged injuries and whether or not he could return to work.

Dr. Charles Bowie, a neurosurgeon, diagnosed Hamilton with a cervical disc disorder and opined that she required cervical fusion surgery. He believed her injuries prevented her from working. On the other hand, Dr. David Ferachi, an orthopedic surgeon representing GCA Services, agreed with Dr. Bowie but stated that Hamilton could return to work as a custodian with certain limitations.

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