Court Awards Credit for Retirement Benefits Paid

Claimant injured his left ankle on March 2, 1998 while working with a power saw in the course of his employment with Calcasieu Parish School Board (“CPSB”).  He received weekly indemnity benefits of $348.58 until September 28, 2014 when CPSB reduced them to $251.72 because of its contributions on Claimant’s behalf to the Parochial Employees Retirement System (“PERS”).  Claimant had been receiving weekly disability benefits from PERS in the amount of $932.75.  On June 25, 2015, CPSB suspended Claimant’s benefits and asserted a credit for $42,232.19 in past disability benefits paid by PERS.  Claimant filed a 1008 seeking reinstatement of benefits plus penalties and attorney’s fees.  The workers’ compensation judge ruled in Claimant’s favor, and Claimant was awarded penalties and attorney’s fees.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the finding of the workers’ compensation judge.  In its analysis, the Third Circuit looked to La. R.S. 23:1225, the statute governing reduction of workers’ compensation benefits for other disability benefits paid by one’s employer.  Under that statute, “if an employee receives remuneration from…benefits under disability benefit plans in the proportion funded by employer,” the employer is entitled to an offset or credit.

Claimant argued that Section 1225 did not apply to him because the PERS plan is governed by statutes that superseded general workers’ compensation laws.  The Third Circuit did not find this argument compelling, stating that statutes such as La. R.S. 11:1934(E) were clearly contemplated by the legislature to include outside benefits or awards, such as workers’ compensation.  The Third Circuit held that La. R.S. 23:1225 and La. R.S. 11:1934(E) were statutes designed to “operate in harmony to balance a disabled employee’s workers’ compensation benefits with those he derives from disability retirement.”  The Third Circuit reversed the indemnity award of the workers’ compensation judge, reversed the award of penalties and attorney’s fees, and remanded to determine the exact amount of any credit due to Employer.

Crochet v. Calcasieu Parish Police Jury