LA Supreme Court: Noise Induced Hearing Loss Qualifies as an Injury

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently issued a decision addressing the issue of whether gradual noise induced hearing loss caused by occupation exposure to hazardous noise levels is a personal injury by accident or an occupational disease, or both, under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act (“LWCA”), thereby entitling the defendant employer to immunity from suits in tort under the exclusivity provisions of the LWCA.

The Court concluded that because the plaintiff’s noise induced hearing loss claims fall within the parameters of the LWCA, defendants were entitled to immunity from suit in tort under the LWCA.  The Court found that noise induced hearing loss qualifies as an accident because high levels of energy noise entering the ear causes damage to the inner ear by violence to the physical structure of the body.

This decision represents a sea change in how gradual noise induced hearing loss is viewed by Louisiana courts.  Previously, gradual hearing loss was not found to meet the definition of a personal injury by accident or a covered occupational disease.  Chief Justice Johnson and Justice Knoll address this in their dissent, wherein they maintain that the plaintiff’s tort claims against their employers for noise induced hearing loss should not be barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the LWCA.

Arrant v. Graphic Packaging International, Inc., et al.