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St. Tammany Parish School Board v. Bullinger

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 23, 2014

ST. TAMMANY PARISH SCHOOL BOARD
v.
WILLIAM BULLINGER AND ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY CONSOLIDATED WITH; PATRICIA MAYFIELD
v.
WILLIAM BULLINGER AND ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY

Page 494

On Appeal from the 22nd Judicial District Court, In and for the Parish of St. Tammany, State of Louisiana. Trial Court No. 2011-10223 c/w 2011-10314. Honorable Allison H. Penzato, Judge Presiding.

G. Brice Jones, Paul D. Hesse, Slidell, LA, Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant, Patricia Mayfield.

Jude H. Trahant, Jr., Madisonville, LA, Attorney for Defendants-Appellees, William Bullinger and Allstate Insurance Company.

Harry P. Pastuszek, Jr., David S. Pittman, Shane A. Jordan, Covington, LA, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellee, St. Tammany Parish School Board.

BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ. McCLENDON, J., concurs.

OPINION

Page 495

[2014 0940 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] HIGGINBOTHAM, J.

The issues presented by these consolidated matters are whether the trial court erred when it (1) awarded the employer reimbursement for paid workers' compensation and medical benefits that included an award for the injured employee's property damages, and (2) failed to award the injured employee reasonable attorney fees. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part, and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

Page 496

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The underlying facts are undisputed. On January 15, 2010, Patricia Mayfield was operating her school bus within the course and scope of her employment for the St. Tammany Parish School Board (" School Board" ) when she was injured in an accident caused by William Bullinger. As a result of the accident, Mayfield underwent continuous medical treatment for two years that included two shoulder surgeries and required her to miss work, before she was able to return to work on January 12, 2010. In addition to Mayfield's medical expenses and lost wages, the damage to Mayfield's school bus rendered it a total loss, amounting to a property damage claim of $33,000.00.

As Mayfield's employer, the School Board paid workers' compensation benefits to and on behalf of Mayfield, including medical expenses pursuant to a medical fee schedule equaling $106,021.55, and indemnity benefits in the amount of $36,343.17. On January 11, 2011, the School Board filed a petition for damages against Bullinger and his insurer, Allstate Insurance Company, asserting a claim for reimbursement of the workers' compensation payments made to or on behalf of Mayfield.[1] A few days later on January 14, 2011, Mayfield filed a separate petition for damages against Bullinger and Allstate, asserting claims for personal [2014 0940 La.App. 1 Cir. 4] injury, property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages.[2] By consent of all the parties, and an order signed by the trial court, the two lawsuits were consolidated into the earlier filed suit on May 31, 2011. Mayfield was subsequently granted leave of court to file a supplemental and amending petition to add her liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) provider, Progressive Gulf Insurance Company, as a defendant.[3]

At the time of the accident, Bullinger had in effect a single limits liability policy through Allstate, with liability coverage in the amount of $50,000.00. On October 18, 2011, Allstate and Bullinger deposited $53,473.97 into an interest bearing account in the registry of the court. The deposited sum represented Allstate's entire liability policy limit of $50,000.00, plus accumulated interest as of the date of the deposit. The School Board and Mayfield filed cross-motions for summary judgment, each seeking an award of all monies deposited in the registry of the court, with Mayfield also seeking attorney fees and costs. ...


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