On Appeal from the Office of Workers' Compensation Administration, District 5, Louisiana Docket No. 12-05706 Honorable Jason Ourso, Judge Presiding
MICHELLE M. SORRELLS BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE DELORES GREAVIS
DAVID T. BUTLER, JR. BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT IBERVILLE PARISH SCHOOL BOARD
BEFORE: KUHN, PETTIGREW, AND WELCH, JJ.
The defendant, the Iberville Parish School Board, appeals a judgment from the Office of Workers' Compensation (OWC) finding that the plaintiff, Delores Greavis (Ms. Greavis), sustained a compensable injury in the course and scope of her employment with the School Board, and ordering it to pay to Ms. Greavis benefits and medical treatment related to her injury (including two knee surgeries). After a thorough review of the record, we affirm.
At the time of the incident at issue, Ms. Greavis had been an educator for over thirty-six years. She received a bachelor of science degree in special education and was initially hired with the Pointe Coupe Parish School System on August 19, 1979. Six years later, in 1981, she went to work as a special education teacher at North Iberville Elementary, kindergarten through sixth grade, and had been an educator there for thirty years when this incident occurred. While at North Iberville Elementary, her job entailed caring for all special needs students, from mild/moderate to severe needs, including students having bipolar disease, autism, and all segments of "special needs." Those special needs students were resourced, meaning that they would spend part of the day in regular education, and would be sent to Ms. Greavis's care any time there was a behavioral problem or other special need that required particular attention. She described those needs as "broad spectrum" including physical exertion when the behavior so required; and under her care, she would attempt to assuage the students' behavior so that they would work on reinforcing the skills that they had been doing in the regular classroom.
On November 1, 2011, she was in a separate classroom working with three special needs students, when she was summoned by a fifth-grade student who knocked on the door and told her a teacher in a regular classroom needed help with a fifth-grade autistic student who was out of control. The out-of-control student was using profane language, throwing things, pushing desks, screaming, kicking, etc. Ms, Greavis immediately went to get the student to bring her to her classroom. Once Ms. Greavis and her aides (two "paraprofessionais") got trie student to the special needs classroom, her behavior continued to be out of control. The other three special needs students who had been with Ms. Greavis were sent back to the regular classroom while Ms. Greavis and her two aides attempted to calm the out-of-control student. The student continued to scream profanities, throw things, and abuse herself physically; and during the process of trying to control her behavior, Ms. Greavis was kicked several times, once quite severely on the side of her left leg, just below the knee. At that moment, Ms. Greavis had to back away from the student and the aides took over, still trying to get the student under control.
According to school procedures, the principal of the school was contacted. Ms. Greavis went to telephone the student's parents to ask them to come to the school and pick up the student. Also, in keeping with school procedures, Ms. Greavis filled out a written behavior report, and turned it in to the Dean of Students. That report, which was entered into evidence, reflects that Ms. Greavis was scratched and kicked during the incident.
Two to three days following the incident, Ms. Greavis also typed a detailed "Statement of the Incident" and turned it in to the principal. That incident report, also introduced into evidence, reflects that during the process of attempting to control the student, Ms. Greavis was scratched, her feet were stomped on, and she received a hard kick to her left knee. During the trial of this matter, Ms. Greavis indicated that this particular child had been her student since she was in the second grade, and that she had always exhibited physical behavior, but that previously, the student was smaller and Ms. Greavis was able to handle her better. However, at the time of the incident at issue, the child was thirteen years old, and was bigger and taller than Ms. Greavis, making it more difficult for Ms. Greavis to restrain her.
Although candidly admitting that, given the nature of her educational role with special needs students, she had been struck by students in the past, Ms. Greavis testified that the incident at issue was the first one in her entire career that caused her serious injury for which she ultimately filed a compensation claim. She indicated in her claim for workers' compensation benefits (discussed below) that the kick to her knee was a hard one and that it immediately bruised and hurt, but that the more severe pain and swelling began weeks afterwards. (More detailed information about the injury will be provided later herein.)
On March 26, 2012, Ms. Greavis filed a workers' compensation form 1007 in which she claimed to have suffered a compensable injury resulting from being kicked in the left knee by an out-of-control student on November 1, 2011. In that report, Ms. Greavis indicated that the student "kicked [her], on the left leg several times. Leg bruised, however, I did not think that there would, be permanent damage. Pain [and] swelling began weeks afterwards." She described the injury as one to her left knee, resulting in surgery. However, on July 30, 2012, she received a letter from her employer's ...