Employee’s Provocation Defeats Compensation Claim

While driving a shuttle for Employer, Claimant sustained head, neck, back and shoulder injuries when he was assaulted by a co-employee. Employer refused to pay for medical treatment costs, claiming that Claimant was the initial aggressor in the altercation by taunting the co-employee with homosexual slurs and threats and that the fight was not work-related. On January 8, 2016 Claimant filed a disputed claim for compensation with the Office of Workers’ Compensation. Employer filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a dismissal of the claim on the basis that claimant’s injuries did not arise out of his employment. Claimant filed an opposition memorandum, which included an attachment of excerpts of Claimant’s expedited motion for medical authorization. Employer moved to strike claimant’s opposition memorandum as untimely and the attachment because it is not considered competent evidence under the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure. The workers’ compensation judge granted both employer’s motion to strike and motion for summary judgment. Claimant filed a motion for new trial, which was denied.

Claimant appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit. The appellate court addressed whether Claimant’s attachment should have been admitted and whether Employer was properly granted summary judgment by successfully proving an absence of factual support that the injuries did not arise from the course of Claimant’s employment. Under the Civil Code, in order for the court to consider documents for a summary judgment, the content of the documents must be in support of or in opposition of the motion. The attachment was related to the damages from the injuries, not the occurrence of the injuries themselves. Therefore, the appellate court agreed with the workers’ compensation judge that the attachment should not be considered because the attachment did not support or oppose the content of the motion.

The appellate court further agreed with the worker’s compensation judge for granting Employer the motion for summary judgment. The court found that Claimant did not prove that the injuries arose out of or in the course of employment because the altercation was personal in nature. The court noted that it was Claimant verbal assault against the co-employee that caused the altercation and not a work-related incident. Additionally, the court denied Claimant’s motion for a new trial because Claimant did not present any new issues that were not thoroughly considered at the hearing for the motion for summary judgment. In light of the evidence, the appellate court affirmed the workers’ compensation judge’s ruling.

Washington v. Gallo Mechanical Contractors