Court Gives Deference to Stipulations

In Cordon v. Parish of Glass of St. Tammany, Inc., the claimant, Carlos Cardon (“Cardon”), was unloading mirrors onto a truck owned by his employer, Parish Glass of St. Tammany, Inc. (“Parish Glass”) when the mirrors on the truck fell on him, causing personal injury.  After hearing the evidence, the Office of Workers’ Compensation (“OWC”) held that Cardon was intoxicated at the time of the accident and forfeited his rights to all workers’ compensation indemnity benefits and medical benefits.  The OWC’s December 3, 2013 judgment ordered Cordon to pay LUBA Casualty Insurance Company (“LUBA”) restitution of $140,491.71 for indemnity benefits and $145,536.99 for medical payments, and additionally $10,000 in attorney fees.

Cordon appealed, and although the court of appeals held there was no error in finding that Cordon was intoxicated at the time of the accident, the court of appeals held pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1081(13), Parish Glass was responsible for the reasonable emergency medical care provided to Cordon until his condition stabilized.  Thus, the court of appeals vacated the OWC’s judgment ordering Cordon to pay the $145,536.99 and remanded the matter so the OWC could determine the amount of medical benefits to be refunded after deducting the amount of medical benefits paid for reasonable emergency medical care.

In anticipation of the remanded issue, Cordon, Parish Glass, and LUBA entered into a stipulation agreeing that the cost to provide to Cordon for reasonable medical care was $43,742.91.  At the trial, the parties’ stipulation was entered into evidence and the OWC rendered judgment holding that Cordon forfeited his rights to reasonable medical care and expenses as a result of his intoxication except the amount of $43,742.91, which was the stipulated amount for reasonable emergency medical care due to the accident.

Thereafter, Cordon filed a timely notice of appeal pertaining to this judgment.  The defendants objected to the appeal on the grounds that Cordon confessed to the judgment by agreeing to the stipulation.  The court of appeals granted the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Cordon’s appeal holding that Cordon stipulated that LUBA spent $43,421.91 on his medical care, he made no allegations that he disagreed with the stipulation, and he made no allegations that his consent to the stipulation was vitiated.  Thus, the court of appeals dismissed his appeal.

Stipulations hold great weight. If executed and worded correctly, stipulations will often provide undisputed facts in an arena where all else is otherwise disputed.  Any party entering into a stipulation, should expect any court to defer to a stipulation where controversy surrounding the precise issue to which the stipulation pertains arises.