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Edwards v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit

November 7, 2014

TONI G. EDWARDS
v.
EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD

ON APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION. NUMBER 11-09991, DISTRICT 5, PARISH OF EAST BATON ROUGE, STATE OF LOUISIANA. HONORABLE JASON OURSO, JUDGE.

AMENDED, AND AS AMENDED, AFFIRMED.

Matthew T. Lofaso, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee, Toni G. Edwards.

Alejandro R. Perkins, Lykisha R. Vaughan, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant-Appellant, East Baton Rouge Parish, School Board.

BEFORE: KUHN, PETTIGREW, AND WELCH, JJ.

OPINION

[2014 0176 La.App. 1 Cir. 2] KUHN, J.

Defendant-appellant, East Baton Rouge Parish School Board (the School Board), appeals the judgment of the Office of Workers' Compensation (OWC) awarding supplemental earnings benefits (SEB) to claimant-appellee, Toni G. Edwards, retroactive to the date of her termination as a bus driver. We amend the judgment and, as amended, affirm.

PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

While Edwards drove a bus for the School Board on December 7, 2010, she was involved in a vehicular accident and sustained injuries. She underwent rotator cuff surgery on February 11, 2011, and was released by her doctor to work as a bus driver on July 19, 2011. Upon return to work at the commencement of the 2011/2012 school year, Edwards continued to have pain at " forward flexion 90 degrees" and on August 29, 2011, was again medically restricted from working as a bus driver. On October 3, 2011, the School Board accommodated Edwards' medical restrictions and provided her a return-to-work position as a bus monitor as part of its program to mitigate workers' compensation costs. On October 6, 2011, Edwards' doctor approved the job. Edwards continued working as a bus monitor through the remainder of the school year, receiving her full wages as a bus driver.

At the end of July 2012, prior to the commencement of the 2012/2013 school year, Edwards contacted the School Board and spoke with her supervisor about returning to work as a bus monitor. He advised her not to show up for work because she had been fired for having failed to attend the in-service meetings required of a bus driver.[1] On January 18, 2013, Edwards received a formal letter of termination [2014 0176 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] retroactive to September 11, 2012.

Edwards filed this disputed claim for compensation in September 2012, averring that after her termination, the School Board had discontinued paying her wage benefits.[2] After a trial on the merits, in a judgment issued on November 13, 2013, OWC concluded that Edwards was entitled to SEB in the stipulated amount of $288.63, retroactive to September 11, 2012 " and continuing until further notice of [OWC]." The School Board appealed.[3]

On appeal, the School Board contends that OWC lacked subject matter jurisdiction to determine whether the termination was proper and, therefore, that the judgment awarding SEB should be voided. The School Board also complains that OWC erred in making an award of SEB because Edwards did not meet her burden of proof.

DISCUSSION

Preliminarily we note that this court issued a show-cause order to the parties questioning whether the OWC judgment was a final, appealable ruling since it expressly states that the SEB awarded to Edwards is " continuing until further notice of [OWC]." The power and jurisdiction of OWC over each case shall be continuing. La. R.S. 23:1310.8(A)(1). It is axiomatic that OWC's authority to make any modifications or changes with respect to former findings or orders relating thereto if, in its opinion, justified is necessarily dependent upon an application by a party and after a contradictory hearing. See La. R.S. 23:1310.8(A)(1). Thus, in ...


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