Appellate Court Affirms Denial of Motion to Annul Settlement

Claimant was exposed to mustard gas while working for Employer.  He filed a tort suit, which he settled in 1999.  He also signed a compromise agreement wherein he released Employer from other causes of action under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act.  Despite having entered into this agreement, Claimant filed a disputed claim for compensation in 2005 relative to the mustard gas exposure.  He alleged that his former attorneys filed a workers’ compensation claim without his knowledge and led him to believe that he only had a tort claim.  The OWC sustained Employer’s exception of prescription and ordered Claimant to pay sanctions to Employer.  Claimant appealed this decision, and the decision was affirmed.

Thereafter, in 2013, Claimant filed a Motion to Annul the 1999 judgment.  This was denied by the OWC and Claimant filed a devolutive appeal of the denial of his motion for a new trial.  Claimant asserted that the OWC’s denial of his motion for new trial was an abuse of discretion and further argued that his motion for a new trial should have been granted based on newly discovered evidence.  Specifically, Claimant noted that he was now faced with cancer due to the mustard gas exposure.

The appellate court found that Claimant’s motion to annul was not properly before the OWC, and that the OWC did not err in failing to consider the motion.  The appellate court reasoned that an action to annul a judgment based on alleged fraud or ill practices cannot be collaterally attacked in the existing proceedings, but must be brought by a direct or new and separate proceeding in the court that rendered the judgment sought to be annulled.

Further, the appellate court found that Claimant clearly and expressly recognized that his right to pursue future claims that might arise from the mustard gas exposure was waived in exchange for his receipt of the lump sum award in 1999.  As a result, any evidence Claimant presents that he now developed cancer would not now allow him to seek workers’ compensation benefits from Employer.

The decision of the OWC was affirmed by the appellate court and the appeal was denied.

Bracken v. Payne & Keller Company, Inc.