Louisiana First Circuit Allows Claimant to Amend Petition to Cure Defects with Intentional Tort Claim

Claimant appealed a judgment from the Twenty-First Judicial District Court in Tangipahoa Parish sustaining a peremptory exception of no cause of action and dismissing her claims against her employer.  In her petition, Claimant alleged that her co-worker had assaulted and battered her in the course and scope of their employment.  Claimant also alleged that, prior to the assault and battery, the co-worker had threatened her and that Claimant had reported these threats to Employer via her supervisor.

Claimant asserted in her petition that Employer was vicariously liable under Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 2320 and liable in tort for the co-worker’s intentional actions because her injury was excluded from the scope of Louisiana workers’ compensation laws.  In support of her Petition, Claimant attached a dismissal of her workers’ compensation claim from the Office of Workers’ Compensation, which found that the incident did not arise out of Claimant’s employment.  The Twenty-First JDC granted Employer’s exception, holding that:  (1) workers’ compensation was Claimant’s exclusive remedy; and (2) Employer was not vicariously liable for intentional acts committed by the co-worker because the conduct was not within the scope of his assigned duties and not in furtherance of his employer’s objectives.

At issue in Claimant’s appeal was whether the co-worker was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the incident.  The First Circuit held that, based on the face of the petition, there were no facts alleged that would have supported a finding that the co-worker’s intentional act was primarily rooted or reasonably incidental to the performance of his duties.  Thus, the trial court did not err in finding that the petition failed to state a cause of action against the Employer for vicarious liability.

Notably, the First Circuit went further in its analysis, holding that Employer was not immune from a negligence suit because Claimant’s injuries were excluded from the scope of workers’ compensation.  In analyzing Claimant’s petition under a negligence theory of liability, the First Circuit held that Employer may have had a duty to Claimant as a matter of law because Claimant alleged notifying Employer of her co-worker’s pre-incident threats.   While the First Circuit noted that Claimant’s petition on its face would not support a claim for negligence, the First Circuit remanded the matter to the district court with instructions to allow Claimant to amend her petition.

Carr v. Sanderson Farm, Inc.