Plaintiff’s Attempt to Escape Exclusive Remedy Slips and Falls

Plaintiff filed suit in tort in the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana after she slipped and fell in a Subway restaurant owned by the defendant in Baker, Louisiana.  Plaintiff was an employee of the defendant; however, in an effort to avoid the exclusive remedy of the Louisiana Worker’s Compensation Act (“Act”) she claimed that she was not in the course and scope of employment at the time of the accident.  The defendant filed an Exception of Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction asserting that plaintiff was in the course and scope her employment at the time of the accident. Defendant asserted that pursuant to the Act, plaintiff’s claims were not properly before the district court, as all claims arising under the Act are to be heard exclusively by worker’s compensation judges.  The district court sustained the Exception and the Court of Appeal for the First Circuit of Louisiana affirmed the district court’s ruling, finding that the plaintiff was within the course and scope of her employment with defendant at the time of the accident.

The court highlighted several pertinent facts to determine that plaintiff was in the course and scope of her employment with defendant.  The allegations in her Petition for Damages established that plaintiff was employed as a manager for the defendant and she fell while she was visiting the Subway to assist with a broken ice machine, an employment-related issue.

Plaintiff argued that she was not scheduled to work at the time of the accident and was on her day off when an employee at the Baker restaurant called her to advise her that the ice machine was not operating so no ice would be available for the upcoming lunch crowd.  Plaintiff called her supervisor who was in Greensburg and said that it would be difficult for her to get ice to the Baker location in time for lunch.  Plaintiff decided to obtain the ice herself and deliver it to the restaurant.  While she was in the restaurant walking toward the ice machine to see if she could fix it, plaintiff slipped and fell in a puddle of water.  Plaintiff claimed that she was not obligated to take the actions she took and that she was not being paid at the time of the accident; however, her assertions failed to persuade the court in her favor.  The court held that plaintiff’s exclusive remedy was in worker’s compensation rather than in tort; therefore, the court sustained defendant’s Exception and dismissed plaintiff’s claims and the court of appeal affirmed the ruling.  The court of appeal specifically noted that plaintiff was called to respond to a problem with an ice machine at her place of work because she was a manager at the restaurant.  Her responsive acts of calling her supervisor, obtaining and delivering ice to the restaurant, agreeing to look at the ice machine and traversing to the area where the accident occurred were inextricably linked to her employment as a Subway manager.

Beasley v. Nezi, LLC