Louisiana Court Denies Workers Compensation for Injured Minor

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. 

When Ms.Griggs picked up Griggs from work, she immediately took Griggs to Ascension Urgent Care. Griggs was diagnosed with a closed metatarsal fracture and told to seek further evaluation and treatment with an orthopedist. Thus, Ms. Griggs took Griggs to Baton Rouge Orthopedic Clinic the following morning. Ms. Griggs called the owner of BNA to confirm that Griggs could be treated with BNA’s insurance through Louisiana Commerce & Trade Association Self-Insurers’ Fund. During the call, BNA’s owner instructed Ms. Griggs not to mention the forklift usage when utilizing the insurance. Griggs was seen by a doctor who later installed fixation hardware to Griggs’s fractured foot. 

As a result of Grigg’s injuries, Ms. Griggs filed a lawsuit against BNA and their insurer. The trial court issued a judgment, holding that Griggs was illegally employed and engaged in illegal activities at the time of injury. The trial court found that Griggs could proceed with a tort claim despite this. This holding relied upon the reasoning in Ewert v. Georgia Casualty & Surety, Co. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Griggs for $125,000 for general damages and $ 24,517.93 for special damages, plus legal interest and all costs of the proceedings. The trial court further found that BNA’s insurer was entitled to reimbursement from Griggs for the sums paid for medical expenses, mileage, and lost wages, totaling $ 25,867.93.

On appeal, BNA argued that the trial court’s general damages determination was an abuse of discretion and that the court improperly allowed Griggs to make a tort claim. Without the ability to make a tort claim, Griggs would be required to make a claim through the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. This Act, however, would not allow Griggs to make a claim because he was illegally employed and committing an illegal act when he was injured. The First Circuit agreed with BNA and reversed the trial court’s holding. The monetary damages were reversed, and all legal fees incurred on appeal by BNA were assessed to the Griggs family. 

Austin Griggs’s case underscores the intricate nature of legal proceedings involving minors in the workforce and the complexities of tort claims in such scenarios. The appellate litigation brought forth various aspects of the case, including the implications of Griggs’s illegal employment status on his ability to pursue claims through the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. The First Circuit’s decision highlighted the importance of understanding the legal landscape and the potential consequences of both plaintiff’s and defendant’s actions. When faced with complex legal scenarios like the Griggs case, securing the guidance of a proficient attorney becomes crucial in deciphering the nuances of the law and navigating the multifaceted terrain of appellate litigation.

Additional Sources: Griggs v. Bounce N’ Around Inflatables L.L.C. 

Written by Berniard Law Firm Writer Riley Calouette

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Workers Compensation: How Can You Get Workers Compensation When Your Employer Won’t Pay It?

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