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Worker injured on first day cannot proceed with negligence claims

Posted On: Oct. 29, 2020 1:50 PM CST

finger injury

A worker who said she injured her fingers just hours into her first day of work and then sued for negligence is barred by the exclusive remedy of the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act from pursuing her claims.

In Bourque v. Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods of Opelousas Inc., the Louisiana Court of Appeals, Third Circuit in Lake Charles on Wednesday reversed a district court’s decision allowing the worker to proceed and dismissed her claims.

Crystal Bourque had been hired by FC Staffing Inc. to work in the warehouse of Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods. On her first day of work, less than two hours into her shift, she claimed that she injured her hand when the leg of a plastic table closed on top of her fingers. She sought medical care and claimed that her supervisor had made inappropriate comments to her. However, she completed her shift and the workweek. The following week, she called multiple times to request modified duty, and then applied for and was granted workers compensation disability based on the alleged hand injury.

She also filed a claim against Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods, alleging that the company was negligent and vicariously liable for her supervisor’s actions. The company moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was shielded from tort liability by provisions of the workers compensation act.

A trial court denied Creole Foods’ motion, stating that questions remained as to whether it was Ms. Bourque’s statutory employer, among other questions. Creole Foods appealed, and the appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision and dismissed the case.

The court found that Creole Foods presented sufficient evidence that Ms. Bourque was a borrowed employee under state statutes, noting that it had staffing agreement with FC Staffing in which it directed the work, set schedules, determined hours, provided equipment and had the right to dismiss workers. Although Ms. Bourque argued that she has not “acquiesced” to the job, as is required in the statue for a finding of borrowed employment status, the court disagreed, noting that she attended an orientation at Creole Foods, knew that plant would be her assignment and did not ask FC Staffing to place her elsewhere.