Category: Louisiana Supreme Court

Workers’ Comp: “Failure to Answer” Results in Forfeiture of Benefits

A worker’s benefits may be forfeited if the employee is untruthful on a medical questionnaire (if the misrepresentations directly relate to the alleged injury) or prejudices the employer’s ability to recovery from the “Louisiana Second Injury Fund.” La. R.S. 23:1208.1 Some Louisiana courts have shown reluctance to deny workers’ compensation benefits based on the employee’s alleged failure to truthfully answer a medical history questionnaire. However, the court in Spillman v. Career Adventures, Inc., — So.3d —- 2021 (La. App. 2d Cir. 8/11/21), 2021 WL 3523959, held that benefits were forfeited because the claimant provided false responses to several medical history questions and failed to answer a number of specific questions on a post-hire medical history questionnaire provided by his employer.

At trial, it was established that Spillman had pre-incident medical conditions to include:  1) injuries related to a 2007 work-related accident; 2) regional sympathetic dystrophy of the left foot; 3) COPD; 4) chronic pain from a gunshot wound in his left leg; 5) surgery to the AC joint of his right shoulder; 6) injuries from a 2018 motor vehicle accident to the right shoulder and right knee; 7) anxiety; 8) bipolar disorder; and 9) many other ailments.

Like many other employers, Spillman’s employer Career Adventures included with its employment packet a “Office of Workers’ Compensation Second Injury Board Questionnaire.”  Spillman failed to truthfully complete this questionnaire and checked “no” to specific questions which asked if he had experienced many of his known conditions such as COPD and bipolar disorder. Although Spillman took the time to respond to numerous “fill in the blank” questions, he purposefully skipped at least 10 inquiries.

Eleven months after hire, Spillman alleged he was injured at work while performing his duties as a welder.  At trial, Spillman’s family physician identified a torn tendon in the left elbow as a work-related injury. He further  testified that the tendon injury limited his activities and merged with his pre-existing injuries to create a greater total disability. The workers’ compensation judge (“WCJ”) ruled that Spillman violated La. 23:1208.1 by failing to truthfully answer certain questions. The Second Circuit “went further” in affirming the workers’ compensation judge, stating:

“We go further than the WCJ. All information which would have been disclosed had Mr. Spillman truthfully answered each and every question on the preemployment questionnaire must be considered …”

Therefore, the appellate court in Spillman found that both false answers and a failure to answer certain questions can qualify as a willful misrepresentation sufficient to cause a forfeiture of benefits under La. R.S. 23:1208.1 under certain circumstances.  

Hurricane Ida: Governor Extends Legal Deadlines

We previously reported that the Louisiana Supreme Court issued Orders suspending prescriptive, peremptive and abandonment periods for thirty days in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Governor John Bel Edwards has now issued a Proclamation. In addition to other actions, the Proclamation provides that legal deadlines applicable to “legal proceedings in all courts, administrative agencies, and boards” are suspended until September 24, 2021.

The Proclamation also authorizes hotels and motels to cancel reservations which would result in the displacement or eviction of first responders, health care workers, or anyone performing disaster-related work.

Hurricane Ida: Supreme Court Suspends Certain Deadlines

In response to Hurricane Ida, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued three Orders which affect litigation in Louisiana:

Proceeding before the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court Clerk of Court’s office will be closed until September 19, 2021. All filings due during this period of closure shall be deemed timely filed if filed on or before Monday, September 20, 2021.
  • Cases scheduled to be heard on the September docket (September 7-9) are postponed to the October docket, the week of October 18, 2021.

Civil Cases Statewide

  • All prescriptive and peremptive periods are hereby suspended statewide for a period of thirty days commencing from August 26, 2021.
  • All periods of abandonment are hereby suspended statewide for thirty days commencing from August 26, 2021.

Criminal Matters

  • The Court also extended time periods in criminal matters but limited the order to parishes most impacted by the storm.

Individual District Courts and Courts of Appeal may take additional actions because of the damage and loss of power experienced in multiple areas of the state.

Simmons: No Bright-Line Rule as to Future Medical Specials?

The difference between the amount charged and the amount paid for medical treatment can be substantial.  Knowing the dollar amount of the medical specials that a plaintiff will be allowed to seek at trial is often critical in case evaluation and resolution.  In this context, the Louisiana Supreme Court provided a “bright-line” rule in Bozeman v. State, 03-1016 (La. 7/2/04), 879 So. 2d 692, that a plaintiff can only seek the amount actually paid for medical treatment, when it is funded by Medicaid. Our state’s highest court then added, in Simmons v. Cornerstone Investments, LLC, 18-0735 (La. 5/8/19), 282 So.3d 199, that only the amount actually paid for medical specials may be sought, when it is funded by workers’ compensation insurance. The “written off” amount is considered a “phantom charge” that the plaintiff will never pay.  Some questions remain as to how courts will apply the holding and analysis of Simmons.

The rationale behind Simmons is that any discount in the amount of medical expenses given to the workers’ compensation carrier does not constitute a “collateral source” because the plaintiff did not give anything in exchange for the discount.  Roughly six months after Simmons, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of the plaintiff’s total past medical expenses.  Love v. Nelson, 2020-1050 (La.App. 1 Cir. 1/13/21), 2021 WL 118936, *1.  Relying solely upon Simmons, the appellate court stated, “[T]he amount of medical expenses charged above the amount actually incurred is not a collateral source … .  Accordingly, we find the trial court abused its discretion, and the motion in limine is granted and evidence of medical expenses not actually owed and paid by or on behalf of plaintiff … is excluded from evidence at the trial.”  Id

Federal courts, relying upon Simmons, have held that the collateral source rule does not apply to third-party-funded past medical expenses.  See Collins v. Benton, Civ. A. No. 18-7465, 2021 WL 638116, *5, 8 (E.D. La. Feb. 17, 2021).  However, see Lee v. United Rentals, Inc., Civ. A. No. 18-977, 2021 WL 2184763, *3 (M.D. La. May 28, 2021), where the court granted the defendant’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of the plaintiff’s past medical expenses not paid by workers’ compensation.  Only the amounts paid by the employer/workers’ compensation carrier would be presented to the jury in support of the plaintiff’s past medical expenses.  The court then added:

“However, there are two matters left in contention: first, may the Plaintiff offer evidence of the amounts charged by Plaintiff’s providers in connection with his back injury which [the employer] refused to pay?  Second, may Plaintiff present evidence of the market rate for Plaintiff’s future medical needs or is he relegated to the amounts set out in the Workers’ Compensation Fee Schedule?  As to both items, Simmons is not controlling.”

In other words, the federal court in Lee found that Simmons applied only to past medical expenses, but it did not apply to future medical expenses (i.e., the plaintiff would be allowed to present the full amount of anticipated future medical charges to the jury).  As a federal court sitting in diversity, the Lee court applied the law of the state.  Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78, 58 S.Ct. 817, 82 L.Ed. 1188 (1938).  The findings in Lee may be correct, but, until it is definitively resolved by legislative act or by the Louisiana Supreme Court, parties will likely continue to debate what impact the reasoning of Simmons will have as to future medical charges past the date of trial. If, as held in Lee, the reduced workers’ compensation rate is irrelevant to future medical specials, then plaintiffs will seek the full future medical charges. This blog does not address the potential impact of the “Civil Justice Reform Act of 2020” which can reduce a plaintiff’s ability seek full medical charges for cases arising after January 1, 2021 in some circumstances.

When Filing A Lawsuit By Fax, FedEx Is Your Friend

The Louisiana Supreme Court in Petit- Blanc vs. Charles and State Farm, 2021-CC-00094 (La. 4/20/21), ____ So. 3d ______ reaffirmed a strict reading of La. R.S. 13:850. This statute allows the filing of pleadings with a Clerk of Court by facsimile transmission.  As currently drafted, the statute provides that the parties shall “deliver” the original document to the clerk within 7 days of the facsimile transmission. In Petit-Blanc, the Supreme Court considered what happens when the original pleading is sent through the mail but not received by the clerk within the 7-day period. Under the facts of the case, the plaintiff’s suit would be prescribed if the act of mailing was insufficient delivery.

Citing Black’s Law Dictionary, the Court found that “delivery” is defined as “the act by which the res or substance thereof is placed within the actual or constructive possession or control of another.”  The Court concluded that “merely transmitting an original document within the deadline is insufficient; rather, a litigant must establish the document was delivered to the clerk within the deadline.” 

The Court noted that, while the plaintiff established she sent her original petition to the clerk’s office well within the 7-day deadline, “she cannot establish the petition was placed in the actual or constructive possession of the clerk’s office” in a timely manner. As such, the Court found that the “facsimile filing is without force and effect and could not serve to interrupt the prescriptive period.”   Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the writ filed by the defendants, maintained their peremptory exception of prescription, and dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit with prejudice.

COVID-19 Case Presents Interesting Constitutional and Procedural Issues

COVID-19 stretched our legal system and raised questions not easily answered by existing law.  One recent question surrounds a dispute between the Governor and the State Legislature regarding the constitutionality of the Governor’s proclamation of a public health emergency in response to COVID-19.  Recently, in Governor John Bel Edwards v. Louisiana State Legislature, Louisiana House of Representatives, & Clay Schexnayder, in his official capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives, 2020-CA-1407, the Louisiana Supreme Court was asked to gauge the validity of the legislature’s termination of Governor Edwards’ proclamation. However, the Court did not reach the constitutional questions and remanded the case.

The Governor filed suit to challenge the Legislature’s termination of his COVID-19 proclamation. He argued that the termination was null and void citing both constitutional and non-constitutional grounds.  Because the trial court found the termination unconstitutional, it did not address the procedural and non-constitutional challenges raised.

On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred in reaching the issue of constitutionality prior to determining whether the dispute could be resolved on non-constitutional grounds.  Louisiana law dictates that courts should avoid decisions based upon constitutional grounds unless the constitutional issue is essential to resolution of the case.  Although the issues to be addressed were important to the citizens of Louisiana, the Court stated “it is critical a case must reach this court in the proper procedural posture to warrant our review of a ruling on constitutionality.” 

The case highlights the role of the Louisiana Supreme Court and reminds both attorneys and the public of how issues are addressed and decided.  The Court was express that the issues presented in Edwards were novel and important and may ultimately be issues the high court will choose to address.  However, the Court recognized that its powers of constitutional review are constrained by procedure.    A civics lesson in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Virginia “Jenny” McLin is a partner at Keogh Cox who practices in the fields of corporate litigation, insurance defense and workers compensation defense.  When she is not practicing law, Jenny can be found volunteering with the Junior League of Baton Rouge; cheering for the LSU Tigers with her husband Ryan; or shuffling her two kids to and from dance practice.

Louisiana Supreme Court issued a significant ruling in a class action case involving tax credits for solar panels

Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a significant ruling in a class action case handled by Keogh Cox partners Chris Jones and Nancy Gilbert.  The case involved tax credits for solar panels.  The Court’s ruling overturned a lower court decision that held an Act of the Legislature unconstitutional.  After the plaintiffs’ Application for Rehearing was denied, the Court’s decision is now final.

In Ulrich, et al. v. Kimberly Robinson, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Revenue, 2018-0534 (La. 3/26/19), 2019 WL 1395316, the class action plaintiffs were persons who purchased and installed residential solar panel systems in their homes. When they claimed the solar electric system tax credits on their 2015 state tax returns pursuant to La. R.S. 47:6030, the tax credits were denied by the Louisiana Department of Revenue, based on Act 131 of the 2015 legislative session.  Act 131 capped the maximum amount of solar panel tax credits to be granted by the Department of Revenue, and the plaintiffs’ claims were made after the cap was exhausted.

When their claims for the tax credits were denied, plaintiffs filed a declaratory judgment action seeking to declare Act 131 unconstitutional.  During the pendency of the suit in the district court, the Louisiana Legislature enacted Act 413 which provided additional funding for solar tax credits.  Under Act 131, all taxpayers whose solar panel tax credit claims were previously denied would receive the entirety of their tax credits over installments.  The district court declared Act 131 unconstitutional and concluded that Act 413 did not moot the controversy.

Because the district court declared Act 131 unconstitutional, the Department directly appealed the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.  Oral arguments occurred in October of 2018.  In the Court’s recent opinion, it concluded that Act 413 mooted the controversy.  According to the Court, the plaintiffs no longer maintained a “justiciable controversy” because Act 413 provided for the payment of the entirety of the previously denied tax credits.  Accordingly, the Court overruled the district court’s judgment that declared Act 131 unconstitutional.  Plaintiffs filed an Application for Rehearing and that request was recently denied, making this decision final.

Chris Jones is a partner with Keogh Cox in Baton Rouge, LA.  He focuses his practice on class actions and mass torts, and handles these matters in courts throughout the country.  He is a life-long resident of Baton Rouge, where he lives with his wife and four children.

The Louisiana Supreme Court rules that amount billed by healthcare providers beyond what has been paid by a Workers Compensation insurer is NOT a collateral source that is recoverable against tort defendants

In a very important ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court, a tort defendant is no longer liable for any “actual charges” by medical providers above the amount paid by a Workers Compensation insurer pursuant to promulgated Workers Compensation fee schedule . In Simmons v. Cornerstone Investments, LLC,  2018-cc-0735 (La. 5/18/19), the court concluded:

“…the amount of medical expenses charged above the amount actually incurred is not a collateral source and its exclusion from the purview of the jury was proper.” See http://www.lasc.org/opinions/2019/18-0735.CC.OPN.pdf

The court conducted a detailed analysis of the development of the collateral source rule under applicable jurisprudence noting that the genesis of the collateral source rule:

“Under the collateral source rule, a tortfeasor may not benefit, and an injured plaintiff’s tort recovery may not be reduced, because of monies received by the plaintiff from sources independent of the tortfeasor’s procuration or contribution. Under this well-established doctrine, the payments received from the independent source are not deducted from the award the aggrieved party would otherwise receive from the wrongdoer.” See Louisiana Dept. of Transp. & Dev. v. Kansas City Southern Railway Co., 02-2349, p. 6 (La. 5/20/03), 846 So.2d 734, 739.

Essentially, the court asks two questions when assessing whether the collateral source rule should apply. First, does the claimed benefit arise from some payment, wage deduction or other contribution by the Plaintiff that would diminish the plaintiff’s patrimony?  Second, will the goal of tort deterrence be promoted by allowing the windfall?  In a series of cases culminating in the case at bar, the court has been limiting the application of the collateral source rule in a number of contexts.

The court in Bozeman v. State, 03-1016 (La. 7/2/04), 879 So.2d 692, found that the collateral source rule did not apply when Medicaid was the payor such that the defendant could not be responsible for any amounts above what Medicaid paid to the provider. The court reasoned that it would be “unconscionable” to require taxpayers to pay the bills and then let a plaintiff recover the full undiscounted medical expenses and “pocket the windfall.” The court continued by noting in “Cutsinger v. Redfern, 08-2607 (La. 5/22/09), 12 So.3d 945, this court found the collateral source rule did not apply to prevent the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist carrier from receiving a credit for workers’ compensation benefits paid by her employer, even though the plaintiff paid for the UM coverage herself.” In Hoffman v. 21st Century North American Ins. Co., 14-2279 (La. 10/2/15), 209 So.3d 702, the court held that the collateral source rule does not apply to attorney-negotiated medical discounts. The court also looked at the US 5th Circuit in Deperrodil v. Bozovic Marine, Inc., 842 F.3d 353 (5th Cir. 2016), that the collateral source rule does not apply above any amounts actually paid by the employer in the context of the LHWCA.

In each of the instances outlined, the court noted that the patrimony of the plaintiff was not impacted by limiting recovery to the amount of medical bills actually paid. Moreover, the court noted that the goal of tort deterrence is not negatively impacted, and that allowing a plaintiff to recover a windfall in this context is tantamount to an award of punitive damages that are not recoverable absent statutory authority which is not present in this context.   The Simmons decision now extends that same logic to cases where a Workers Compensation insurer has paid the medical benefits pursuant to the Louisiana Workers Compensation Law.

This ruling will have significant impact on the evaluation, settlement and trial of tort cases that have corresponding Workers Compensation claims.

Submitted by John P. Wolff, III (Partner)

Sudden Emergency Defense: Now More Dispositive

On August 28, 2015, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a Writ Application in Leandro Carias v. Vernon A. Loren, et al. This denial signifies that the “sudden emergency” defense may be properly applied at the summary judgment level. The defense in the Carias litigation was handled by Keogh Cox attorneys Gracella Gail Simmons and Collin J. LeBlanc.

Claims for Negligent Spoliation of Evidence Not Supported by Louisiana Law, Reynolds v. Bordelon

In Reynolds v. Bordelon, 2014-2362 (La. 6/30/15), — So.3d—, 2015 WL 3972370, the Louisiana Supreme Court definitively ruled that Louisiana law does not recognize a cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence. This resolved a disputed issue of Louisiana law.

The Reynolds plaintiff was involved in a multi-car accident in which his airbag failed to deploy. His insurance company paid what was owed for the totaled vehicle under its policy and, in the normal course of business, disposed of the vehicle by auctioning it to a salvage yard. Plaintiff’s petition included a claim against the auto manufacturer for the airbag failure. It also included a claim against his insurance company and the salvage yard for failure to preserve the vehicle as evidence likely to be used in litigation.

Back to the Beginning – Veil Piercing

The longstanding rule that the analysis for “piercing the corporate veil” of an LLC is substantially the same as the analysis for piercing the veil of corporations has been called into question by the recent Louisiana Supreme Court decision in Ogea v. Travis Merritt and Merrit Construction, LLC, 2013-1085, — So.3d —. In Ogea, the Court addressed “the extent of the limitation of liability afforded to a member of an LLC” and the statutory basis for exceptions to this limited liability.

Fraud Just Got More Expensive – Equity as a Factor in Attorney Fee Awards

The Louisiana Supreme Court recently held that the New Home Warranty Act (“NHWA”) is not the exclusive remedy for a purchaser of a new home where the builder fails to disclose known defects in the Residential Property Disclosure Act (“RPDA”). Stutts v. Melton, 2013-0557, — So.2d. —-. The Court also upheld an award of damages and attorney fees for fraud victims who elect not to seek rescission of a sales contract despite no Civil Code article expressly allowing for attorney fees in such instances.