Incarcerated Claimant is Not Entitled to Compensation Benefits

Claimant was working for Employer as a general laborer, or welder’s helper, when, on September 25, 2013, Claimant fell from an alleged 20-foot scaffold and sustained an injury to his neck and back. Claimant was airlifted to a nearby hospital to receive medical treatment. X-rays taken that day revealed “no convincing evidence of acute osseous injury.” Claimant was discharged that day and was advised to seek follow-up treatment with his primary care physician.

On October 14, 2013, Claimant was arrested for second degree battery. The arrest led to probation revocation. On October 15, 2013, Claimant filed a disputed claim for compensation. Claimant presented to his choice of physician on January 15, 2014, who found degenerative disc disease at C5-6, and annular tears at L5-S1 and L4-5 with well-hydrated discs. Claimant’s physician placed him on light-duty work. Claimant had received temporary total disability benefits from approximately December 4, 2013 through February 14, 2014.

On June 4, 2014, Claimant was incarcerated as a result of his probation revocation hearing. Carrier immediately ceased payment of TTD benefits pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1201.4. ( Upon his release on September 23, 2014, Claimant demanded reinstatement of TTD benefits and claimed entitlement to benefits during his incarceration due to his alleged dependents.

The parties appeared at hearing in January 2015. The ad hoc WCJ found that Claimant lacked credibility and that he failed to prove that his injury lasted past June 2014. The WCJ denied Claimant’s claim for compensation, penalties and attorney fees. Claimant appealed this decision.

On appeal Claimant claimed that the WCJ erred in finding that he failed to prove he was entitled to compensation benefits after he was incarcerated, and that the WCJ erred in finding that he failed to prove his dependents were entitled to said benefits while he was incarcerated. The Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit agreed with the WCJ’s assessment of Claimant’s credibility. The Court further determined that Claimant’s testimony, which was not credible, was contradicted by objective findings, clouded by circumstantial evidence, and “tainted by poor credibility.” Because the Court agreed with the WCJ’s determination of Claimant’s credibility and its finding that Claimant was not entitled to compensation benefits while incarcerated, the Court of Appeal noted that it need not address Claimant’s assignment of error relative to his dependents. Even if this assignment of error had not been mooted, the Court acknowledged that Claimant was previously in jail from 2008- 2011, during which time his mother and her other children were financially independent from Claimant. Specifically, the Court found that there was no manifest error in the WCJ’s findings relative to Claimant’s dependency argument.

Claimant also alleged, on appeal, that the WCJ failed to address his entitlement to benefits, including compensation for the first 10 weeks of disability, medical bills and mileage, prior to his incarceration. The Court cited LA. R.S. 23:1203 A to address whether Employer properly refused to pay certain benefits. La. R.S. 23:1203 A states that an employer is required to furnish “all necessary drugs, supplies, hospital care and services, medical and surgical treatment.” The Court found that Employer had no basis under which to deny payment of compensation for the first 10 weeks of Claimant’s disability, or to deny payment of medical bills and mileage expenses. Additionally, the Court award penalties of $2,000.00 for each of Employer’s failures in paying a claim. Each of the claims, and the penalties associated with each, were subject to judicial interest. In total, the Court awarded Claimant $17,688.30, inclusive of attorney’s fees.

Tingle v. Paige Boiler, Inc.