Louisiana Supreme Court Rules Choice of Pharmacy Suit Premature

In Soileau v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2019-C-0040 (La. 06/26/19), a workers’ compensation matter, the Louisiana Supreme Court vacated a judgment of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal and held that a choice of pharmacy suit was both premature under La. R. S. 23:1314 and failed to present a judiciable controversy.

Soileau v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.: Background

Elizabeth Soileau alleged injuries to her right arm and hand during the course and scope of her employment with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Following her injuries, two judgments were rendered which found Ms. Soileau entitled to medical treatment, including prescription medications. Following the decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court in Burgess v. Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans, 16-2267 (La. 6/29/17), 225 So. 3d 1020, where it was held that the choice of pharmacy belongs to the employer, Wal-Mart notified Ms. Soileau that she was required to use a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club pharmacy for her future prescription needs.

Ms. Soileau filed a motion to compel Wal-Mart to choose a pharmacy other than its retail stores to fill her prescriptions, arguing that she should not be forced to obtain medications directly from her employer. The Office of Workers’ Compensation denied Ms. Soileau’s motion, finding that Wal-Mart had the right to choose the pharmacy at its retail stores to fill her prescriptions. Ms. Soileau then appealed to the Third Circuit, who reversed and found that a conflict of interest would be created if Wal-Mart were permitted to designate its own pharmacy as the only pharmacy she could use. Upon Wal-Mart’s application, a writ was granted by the Louisiana Supreme Court to consider the correctness of the decision.

Louisiana Supreme Court Vacates Third Circuit Decision

The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal and reinstated the judgment of the Office of Workers’ Compensation, dismissing Ms. Soileau’s motion to compel. The majority found Ms. Soileau’s underlying claim to be procedurally premature because it failed to assert that Wal-Mart had not furnished her with proper medical attention, as required by La. R.S. 23:1314. Additionally, the Court did not feel that Ms. Soileau’s case presented a justiciable controversy for them to review. There was no real or actual dispute, just Ms. Soileau’s concerns about harm she might suffer in the future if Wal-Mart were permitted to restrict her to its own pharmacy.

Justices Johnson, Genovese, and Hughes dissented from the majority’s opinion and provided their assigned reasons.