Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court
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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted this writ application to address the specific question of whether there was a cause of action for a writ of mandamus compelling a municipality to satisfy a judgment for back wages owed to its firefighter employees. Based on the ministerial nature of the statutorily and constitutionally mandated duty of the municipality to appropriate funds to satisfy the judgment, the Court found the lower courts erred in sustaining the exception of no cause of action. View "Lowther et al. v. Town of Bastrop" on Justia Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari review in this case to determine whether the court of appeal properly granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (“Farm Bureau”), where Farm Bureau argued that the “regular use” exclusion in its automobile insurance policy issued to plaintiff precluded uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage, because plaintiff was operating a vehicle owned by his employer at the time of the accident. The plaintiff in this matter, Charles Higgins, was injured in an automobile accident while operating a truck owned by his employer, AT&T. The other driver in the accident was underinsured, and AT&T did not carry UM coverage on the truck. Higgins subsequently filed the instant suit against his personal UM insurer, Farm Bureau. Because the Supreme Court found the policy’s “regular use” exclusion impermissibly derogated from the requirements of the Louisiana uninsured motorist statute (the “UM statute”), La. R.S. 22:1295, the Court found this exclusion inapplicable and reversed the decision of the court of appeal. View "Higgins v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review centered on whether an employee who suffers from noise-induced hearing loss was entitled to indemnity benefits pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1221(4)(p), which conferred such benefits to employees who sustained “a permanent hearing loss solely due to a single traumatic accident.” James Hartman, Jr. was employed by the St. Bernard Parish Fire Department. During the course of his employment, Hartman was exposed to injurious levels of noise, which resulted in permanent hearing loss. Testing from 2006 to 2017 showed a gradual increase in hearing loss. The Fire Department opposed Hartman's claim for compensation, asserting, among other things, that his claim for work-related hearing loss was not covered by La. R.S. 23:1221(4)(p), which applied only where the permanent hearing loss was “solely due to a single traumatic accident.” Finding that cumulative hearing loss incurred as a result of repeated exposure to high noise levels on the job did not constitute “a permanent hearing loss solely due to a single traumatic accident” as required for the award of permanent partial disability benefits pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1221(4)(p), the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments below. View "Hartman v. St. Bernard Parish Fire Dept." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sherome Hankton, an officer with the New Orleans Police Department, filed this personal injury suit for damages resulting from an attack upon her by a prisoner, Conrad Jackson, while Officer Hankton was guarding Jackson during a hospital stay. Following a bench trial, the trial court apportioned 50% fault to Jackson, 40% fault to the hospital, and 10% fault to Officer Hankton; it then awarded damages totaling $1,134,287.44. The court of appeal affirmed in part, amended in part, and affirmed as amended. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the trial court’s allocation of fault. After review, the Supreme Court reallocated the percentages of fault: Jackson 50%, Officer Hankton 10%, University Hospital 25%, and NOPD 15%. As amended, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Hankton v. Louisiana" on Justia Law

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Frederick Meiners, III was employed as Assistant Fire Chief with the St. Tammany Parish Fire Protection District No. 4 (“District”). In early 2016, Meiners agreed to retrieve a repaired ambulance unit from Hattiesburg, but informed his supervisor, provisional fire chief Kenneth Moore, that he first had to attend a speaking engagement with a ladies’ group that would last approximately thirty minutes. At 1:08 p.m. that day, Jennifer Glorioso, the wife of Fire Equipment Operator Glorioso (hereinafter referred to as “FEO Glorioso”), photographed Meiners sitting at a table at the La Madeleine restaurant with his wife and his lawyer. She later sent a text message containing this photograph to her husband. At 2:30 p.m., District Fire Chief Brady Anderson advised Chief Moore that Meiners was not yet back from his meeting and offered to pick up the ambulance himself. Chief Moore declined Anderson’s offer. After being reassured by Meiners he was on his way back to the District, Chief Moore received a text from an unknown phone number that contained a photograph of Meiners taken at the restaurant. Chief Moore then provided a written notice of investigation to Meiners, stating that he was “initiating an investigation into an incident involving you in a matter which occurred on February 19, 2016, specifically, conflicting details regarding a speaking engagement while on duty.” The notice of investigation also stated the “persons conducting this investigation will be Corianne Green and a PMI representative.” Chief Moore then placed Meiners on administrative leave with pay. After a hearing, Meiners was terminated from his employment with the district based on his conduct on the date of the ambulance pickup. The termination was affirmed by the St. Tammany Parish Fire Protection District No. 4 Civil Service Board (“Board”). Upon review, a district court reversed and remanded, finding that untruthfulness alone, did not mandate termination, where the misconduct did not result in a detrimental effect on the efficient and orderly operation of the fire department. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the district court erred in remanding the case to the Board to impose discipline other than termination. The Court reversed judgment and reinstated the Board's decision. View "Meiners v. St. Tammany Parish Fire Protection Dist. No. 4 et al." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted summary judgment to plaintiff St. Charles Gaming Company d/b/a Isle of Capri Casino Lake Charles ("Grand Palais"), holding the casino was a :vessel" for the purposes of general maritime law. The decision contradicted Benoit v. St. Charles Gaming Company, LLC, 233 So. 3d 615, cert. denied, 139 S. Ct. 104 (2018), which held the Grand Palais was not a vessel. Plaintiff Don Caldwell worked for Grand Palais Riverboat, LLC, and was injured when the gangway attached to the riverboat malfunctioned and collapsed. Plaintiff petitioned for damages, alleging the Grand Palais was a vessel under general maritime law, and that he was a seaman under the Jones Act at the time of the accident. After a de novo review of the record, the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded the Grand Palais was a not vessel under general maritime law. Therefore, it reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing plaintiff’s suit. View "Caldwell v. St. Charles Gaming Company" on Justia Law

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In a workers’ compensation matter, the Louisiana Supreme Court was presented with the question of whether an employee’s motion to compel her employer to choose a pharmacy other than the pharmacy at its retail stores to fill her prescriptions was premature in the absence of any claim that she has not been furnished proper medical attention or that there have been delays or deficiencies in filling prescriptions. Elizabeth Soileau filed a disputed claim for workers’ compensation benefits alleging she injured her right arm and hand in the course and scope of her employment with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Wal-Mart”). Pursuant to a 2012 consent judgment, Soileau received medical treatment, including prescriptions, some of which she filled at a Wal-Mart pharmacy. In 2016, Soileau obtained a judgment against Wal-Mart ordering that she was entitled to receive certain prescriptions, as prescribed by her physician. Soileau began filling her prescriptions at Falcon Pharmacy. Following the Louisiana Supreme Court's opinion in Burgess v. Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, 225 So.3d 1020, which held the choice of pharmacy belonged to the employer, Wal-Mart notified Soileau in writing that she could only use “a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club Pharmacy” for her future prescriptions needs. Wal-Mart further advised Soileau it would not issue reimbursement for medications dispensed to Wal-Mart workers’ compensation patients from any pharmacy other than a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club Pharmacy. Soileau moved to compel, arguing she “should not be forced to obtain medications from her employer directly and cannot go without her medication.” The motion proceeded to a hearing before the Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”). At the hearing, Soileau testified that in September 2017 (after she filed her motion), Wal-Mart’s pharmacy denied two of her workers’ compensation prescriptions, but admitted she had no written documentation of the denial. The workers’ compensation judge explained that in the event Soileau experienced any delays or deficiencies in the filling of her prescriptions, she “has a remedy under Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1201E.” Soileau appealed. A divided panel of the court of appeal reversed, finding that a conflict of interest would be created if Wal-Mart were permitted to designate its own pharmacy as the only pharmacy Soileau could use for her workers’ compensation prescriptions. The Supreme Court found the matter was indeed premature and did not present a justiciable controversy. It therefore vacated the judgment of the court of appeal. View "Soileau v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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