Conflicting decisions of the Louisiana Courts of Appeal as to when forfeiture of benefits begins for violation of La. R.S. 23:1208, makes this workers’ compensation issue ripe for a writ to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
MORAN V. ROUSE’S ENTERPRISES, LLC. – BACKGROUND
In Moran v. Rouse’s Enterprises, LLC. 2019 WL 7184241 (La. App. 5Cir. 12/26/19), Leontine Moran alleged injuries to her neck, back, knee, and shoulder after she slipped and fell in a puddle of water while working for Rouse’s Enterprises, LLC. Rouse’s denied the claim in part because they believed Ms. Moran made false statements about prior similar injuries and treatment in her deposition, thus triggering the forfeiture provisions of La. R.S. §23:1208.
THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION JUDGE’S RULING
The workers’ compensation judge ruled in favor of Rouse’s and held that Ms. Moran forfeited her right to all workers’ compensation benefits from time of her accident until the deposition. Ms. Moran appealed, arguing that forfeiture of benefits began when the fraudulent statements were made and not prior thereto. In support of this, Ms. Moran noted that the Louisiana Courts of Appeal for both the First and Third Circuit applied the forfeiture provision prospectively.
THE DECISIONS OF THE LOUISIANA COURTS OF APPEAL
Recognizing that their decision was divergent from the First and Third Circuit, Louisiana’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the workers’ compensation judge. The Court felt that, while possibly harsh, the language of La. R.S. §23:1208(E) that “any employee violating this Section shall, upon determination by workers’ compensation judge, forfeit any right to compensation benefits” was clear and unambiguous. Thus, La. R.S. §23:1208 required forfeiture of all benefits regardless of when the fraudulent conduct or misrepresentation occurred.
Given the conflicting decisions of the Louisiana Courts of Appeal, this issue seems ripe for a writ to the Louisiana Supreme Court.