Suit Against a Statutory Employer Interrupts Prescription Against a Solidarily Liable Third-Party Tortfeasor

In a case arising from a fire at an oil well site which left a worker severely burned, a deeply divided Louisiana Supreme Court held in a 4-3 decision that a timely filed lawsuit against a worker’s statutory employer who is immune from tort liability and who had not paid any benefits (because benefits were paid by the direct employer) can interrupt prescription against an alleged third-party tortfeasor because of the solidary liability that exists between them for medical expenses and lost wages. Glasgow v. PAR Minerals Corporation, 2010-2011 (La. 5/10/11), rehearing denied, (La.7/14/11). The Supreme Court concluded:

The Civil Code provides a two-part formula for interrupting prescription in this situation: 1) a timely lawsuit (and service, if in an incompetent court; see LSA-C.C. art. 3462); and 2) a solidary relationship between a party sued within the prescriptive period and a party not sued within the prescriptive period (see LSA-C.C. art. 1799 or art. 3503). The procedural posture here is comparable to that in Williams v. Sewerage & Water Bd. of New Orleans, 611 So.2d 1183 (La. 1993), except that in Williams, the suit in district court was for workers’ compensation and the suit was brought against a direct employer rather than a statutory employer. The procedural distinctions here are without a difference, because LSA-C.C. art. 1797 provides that the source of the solidary relationship is immaterial. For this reason, to the extent Keller v. McLeod, 2003-267 (La.App. 3 Cir. 2/11/04), 866 So.2d 388; Williams v. Holiday Inn Worldwide, 2002-0762 (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/15/02), 816 So.2d 998; and Layman v. City of New Orleans, 1998-0705 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/9/98), 753 So.2d 254, are inconsistent with the conclusion that a timely lawsuit (and service, if in an incompetent court) against a principal or statutory employer interrupts prescription as to a third-party alleged tortfeasor, those cases are overruled. In the instant case, we find both parts of the formula provided by the Civil Code for interrupting prescription have been met; the lower courts erred in sustaining the alleged third party tortfeasor’s exception of prescription. Accordingly, we reverse the decisions of both lower courts and remand this matter to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.