Sanctions and Fees: OWC Does Not Always Have Jurisdiction

Defendant, a medical facility, initially filed three disputed claims against Employer with the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) because they had not been paid for medical services rendered.  Employer argued they had not received notice of any treatment before the claims were filed.  The medical facility voluntarily dismissed its claims with prejudice prior to the hearing.

Employer then filed a lawsuit in state district court against the medical facility alleging that Defendant’s prior claims were frivolous and seeking sanctions and attorney fees.  Defendant filed an exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that Employer’s suit should have been filed in the OWC because Employer’s claim arose out of workers’ compensation disputes.  The district court found it had jurisdiction and denied the exception.

The court of appeal noted that the original and exclusive jurisdiction of the OWC is limited to claims for benefits and disputes regarding the payment of benefits.  When the dispute involves something other the payment of benefits, the OWC lacks jurisdiction.  The court found that because Employer’s civil lawsuit did not request relief under the Act, it was not a claim or dispute out of the Act.  The dispute was a civil matter within the original jurisdiction of the district courts.  Judgment affirmed.

Brookshire Grocery Company v. Musculoskeletal Institute of Louisiana, A.P.M.C.