Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Reviewed

The Fifth Circuit was recently called to review a lower court judgment sustaining an Exception of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Claimant was hired by a Texas Company to drive trucks in Oklahoma. While working for Employer in Oklahoma, Claimant was involved in a truck accident and injuried his back and elbow. Claimant filed a Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act claim against Employer and its workers’ compensation carrier. Employer and Carrier filed Exceptions of Subject Matter Jurisdiction asserting that Claimant was not hired in Louisiana and did not work in Louisiana, and was therefore, not entitled to Louisiana workers’ compensation benefits.

Claimant opposed the Exceptions alleging that the contract of hire was confected within Louisiana. Claimant stated that before going to work in Oklahoma, all communication between him and Employer occurred by telephone while he was located in Louisiana. Employer admitted that it had communicated with Claimant about the job while he was located within Louisiana, but asserted that Claimant was not actually hired until he came to Oklahoma where he was given a road test and a drug test and where he filled out a formal job application. Employer alleged that the Claimant could not be hired until he passed the required testing and pre-conditions of employment and that these activities occurred in Oklahoma, not Louisiana.

The trial court granted Employer’s Exception and Claimant appealed. The Fifth Circuit reviewed the lower court’s ruling. Finding that Claimant did not perform work in Louisiana, the Court noted that the only issue for decision was whether the Louisiana Office of Workers’ Compensation had subject matter jurisdiction over the claim because the contract of hire was made in Louisiana. The court noted that the parties’ intent was the paramount, and suggested that where there is a conflict in the testimony, the decision of the lower could should not be overturned if the factfinder’s conclusion was a reasonable one.

The Fifth Circuit found that the lower court’s determination that Claimant was not hired by Employer until satisfying the pre-employment requirements in Oklahoma was reasonable. The Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling that the OWCA lack subject matter jurisdiction over Claimant’s claim.

Cortez v. Triple F. Oil Field Service, LLC