Louisiana Court of Appeal Dismisses Civil Claim Brought by Injured Minor Hurt at Work, Based on Workers’ Compensation Exclusivity Rule

forklift in warehouseThe Louisiana workers’ compensation system is designed to provide benefits to individuals who are injured on the job or as a result of their job duties. In exchange for these benefits, workers give up their right to sue an employer in civil court for damages, except for a few very limited exceptions. As Louisiana work accident lawyers, we have substantial experience assisting people with determining whether their injury falls into one of these categories and whether they are limited to seeking recourse through the workers’ compensation system.

In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered the application of workers’ compensation rules to a minor who was injured. The employer was a party rental business that provides inflatable bounce houses and other items for social events. The injured minor was 15 years old at the time he suffered an injury while working for the employer. The employer classified the minor as a helper, and the minor testified during a proceeding that he was never informed that he would require a certificate to work for the employer because of his age. The minor’s job duties consisted primarily of cleaning and delivering the inflatables and picking them up from the rental locations.

According to the minor, he suffered an injury while a coworker was using a forklift to access one of the inflatables that was located on a pallet. The minor climbed on top of the inflatable to provide it with balance, while the coworker lowered the inflatable on the pallet by using the forklift. The minor testified that this was a normal practice. As the inflatable was being lowered, the minor fell to the ground, and the inflatable fell onto his back.

The minor received medical treatment for his injury, and the employer’s insurance carrier paid for the treatments, consisting of a weekly benefit payment and medical bill reimbursement. Eventually, the minor required surgery to install hardware in his foot to address several fractures, and a second surgery was required to remove the hardware.

The minor and his parent filed a lawsuit against the employer and its insurance company in addition to other involved parties, seeking compensation for the minor’s injuries and damages. The insurance carrier intervened and argued that since the minor had received benefits and medical expenses reimbursement, he was barred from filing a civil claim against the defendants seeking compensation. The case proceeded to a bench trial, and the court concluded that the minor was employed illegally with the company and engaged in illegal tasks. As a result, the lower court concluded that the plaintiffs were not limited to workers’ compensation as their sole remedy. The jury awarded compensation to the plaintiffs, and the defendant appealed.

On review, the appellate court reversed, finding that the exclusive remedy provision of Louisiana’s workers’ compensation statute applies to all persons, including minors who are legally or illegally employed.

If you suffered a spinal cord injury or another back injury in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. There are many different types of injuries that can give rise to a legal claim, and it can be confusing to fully understand the scope of your rights. Proudly serving accident victims and their families throughout Louisiana, we offer a free consultation to help you learn about your potential claim and whether we can assist you. Call us now at 1-800-929-7481 or contact us online.

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