On Appeal from the Office of Workers' Compensation, In and for the Parish of Ascension, District 9, State of Louisiana. No. 11-05495. Honorable Elizabeth C. Lanier, Workers' Compensation Judge Presiding.
Michelle M. Sorrells, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee, Vickie Young.
Christopher M. Moody, Albert D. Giraud, Hammond, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/Appellant, City of Gonzales.
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McCLENDON, AND HIGGINBOTHAM, JJ.
[2014 1299 La.App. 1 Cir. 2]
In this workers' compensation case, the employer appeals from a judgment of the Office of Workers' Compensation (OWC) that determined that the claimant is entitled to permanent and total disability status. The judgment also awarded the claimant penalties and attorney fees. For the reasons that follow, we reverse in part and affirm in part.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In 2000, Vickie Young was employed by the City of Gonzales (the City) as a records clerk. On September 6, 2000, she injured her back while on the job when she tried to answer another employee's telephone and tripped over a computer wire. Subsequently, Ms. Young underwent a discectomy in 2001 and another in 2004, neither of which was successful. She continues to have complaints of low back pain radiating into her lower extremities. Ms. Young has been diagnosed with failed back syndrome, lumbar degenerative disc disease, lumbar radiculopathy, and peripheral neuropathy. She has not worked since the accident.
Ms. Young was paid workers' compensation benefits until they were terminated on July 4, 2011. The termination was based on Ms. Young's treating physician approving job positions for her that were identified through a labor market survey. Thereafter, on July 22, 2011, Ms. Young filed a disputed claim for workers' compensation against the City and its insurer, Risk Management, Inc., seeking permanent and total disability benefits. Ms. Young also sought penalties and attorney fees. While the matter was pending, benefits were voluntarily reinstated on January 23, 2013.
The case was tried on January 7 and March 11, 2014, and the OWC took the matter under advisement. The OWC rendered its judgment on May 16, 2014, in favor of Ms. Young. The OWC determined that Ms. Young was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the accident as of May 16, 2012, the date her
treating physician declared her permanently and totally disabled. The OWC also assessed $2,000.00 in penalties for the City's failure to reinstate [2014 1299 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] indemnity benefits as of May 16, 2012, and $10,000.00 in attorney fees. Oral reasons for judgment were given on May 23, 2014.
The City appealed, contending that the OWC erred in holding that Ms. Young is entitled to permanent and total disability status and in awarding penalties and attorney fees to Ms. Young. Ms. Young answered the ...