Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal Affirms Judgment Finding Employer Was Arbitrary and Capricious in Controverting Claim for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Published by The Pellegrin Firm October 1, 2019

In a September 18, 2019 decision, The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a Lake Charles workers’ compensation judge’s decision to award workers’ compensation benefits, attorneys’ fees, and penalties to an injured employee of Chicago Bridge & Iron. The employee was injured while stepping off a crane on a rainy day. At first, Chicago Bridge & Iron accommodated his limitations, but after he missed several days of work due to complications from an injection related to the work injury, he was terminated.

Chicago Bridge & Iron, along with its workers’ compensation insurer, argued that the employee forfeited his rights to benefits due to the fact that he gave confusing answers on a form he filled out on past injures when he first started the job. The workers’ compensation judge found that while his answers were confusing and contradictory, he made an effort to disclose past injuries to his knee and leg. Forfeiture of benefits is a drastic remedy, and when it appears a worker has given false answers on a pre-employment form due to error or confusion, benefits should generally not be forfeited. Also, the mere presence of a preexisting condition does not mean an injured employee cannot get worker’s compensation benefits for a work-related injury that exacerbates or aggravates the condition.

The workers’ compensation judge found that the worker was entitled to benefits, the termination was pretextual, and the worker was entitled to penalties and attorneys’ fees for failure to pay benefits timely. The case is Ralph Weaver v. Chicago Bridge & Iron, Docket No. 18-719 in the Court of Appeal.