In a recent case, Tasha Griggs v. Bounce N’ Around Inflatables, LLC, 2018-C-0726 (La. 01/30/19), the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed broad coverage of workers’ compensation as exclusive remedy for minor performing prohibited work.
Tasha Griggs v. Bounce N’ Around Inflatables, LLC
Austin Griggs was fifteen years-old when he fell from pallet-jack forklift while working for Bounce N’ Around Inflatables, LLC (BNA). BNA’s business included rental of inflatable attractions for parties and other social events. Griggs was hired as a helper by BNA when he was fourteen years-old. BNA paid Griggs indemnity and medical workers’ compensation benefits until he recovered from his injuries and, eventually, returned to work at BNA. Griggs’ mother filed suit on behalf of herself and Griggs’ to recover tort damages from BNA.
Following a bench trial, the court found for plaintiffs and awarded damages. The court determined that the exclusive remedy provisions of the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act did not apply because BNA had violated separate labor statues. Specifically, BNA failed to keep an employment certificate for Griggs pursuant to La. R.S. § 23:181 and allowed Griggs to perform prohibited work in connection with power-driven machinery pursuant to La. R.S. § 23:163(2). Both of these violations were tied to Griggs’ age.
Court Reversal: Claims Subject to Exclusive Remedy Provisions of Workers’ Compensation Act
The First Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment in favor of plaintiffs and found that Griggs’ claims were subject to the exclusive remedy provision of the workers’ compensation act. Because of a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court granted supervisory writ. The Court reviewed the “every person” language in La. R.S. §23:1035 and found it to clearly and unambiguously apply the workers’ compensation act to minors since the legislature had not exempted minors for the exclusive remedy provision. Accordingly, the Court took the expansive view of the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation, overruling contrary jurisprudence exempting illegally hired minors from the provision.
Tasha Griggs v. Bounce N’ Around Inflatables, LLC, 2018-C-0726 (La. 01/30/19)