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Garcia v. Rouses Enterprise, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

May 14, 2015

ISAAC L. GARCIA, SR.
v.
ROUSES ENTERPRISE, INC., STORE 028, STRATEGIC COMP SERVICES

ON APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION, DISTRICT 7, PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 13-8076. HONORABLE SYLVIA T. DUNN, JUDGE PRESIDING.

MIGUEL A. ELIAS, DAVID S. SCALIA, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, Kenner, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

CHRISTOPHER M. LANDRY, RICHARD J. VOELKER, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, Covington, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Marc E. Johnson and Stephen J. Windhorst.

Page 1158

OPINION

FREDERICKA HOMBERG WICKER, J.

[15-7 La.App. 5 Cir. 1] Claimant, Isaac Garcia, appeals the trial court's judgment denying his claim for workers' compensation following a trial on the merits wherein the parties, by agreement, submitted the matter to the court by stipulations, exhibits, and plaintiff's deposition, and the workers' compensation court found claimant did not sustain a compensable work-related injury. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Garcia filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation on November 8, 2013, against his employer, Rouses Enterprises, Inc. (Rouses), and its insurer, Strategic Comp, claiming he suffered a work-related injury on September 15, 2013, and that Rouses had paid neither wage benefits nor authorized any medical treatment. A [15-7 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] trial was set for July 24, 2014. Mr. Garcia failed to appear at trial. On that date, in open court, the parties agreed to submit the matter to the trial court via agreed upon stipulations, the claimant's deposition testimony, and both claimant's and employer's exhibits. The parties filed post-trial briefs thereafter. On October 16, 2014, the workers' compensation judge rendered judgment. The workers' compensation court found that Mr. Garcia failed to meet his burden of proving an on-the-job accident and, therefore, was entitled to no benefits pursuant to the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Act. The court entered no written reasons for judgment. This timely appeal followed.

The submitted evidence revealed that Mr. Garcia was hired by Rouses as an overnight stock clerk on September 6, 2013. Rouses is a grocery store and Mr. Garcia's job entailed moving boxes of merchandise from pallets in the warehouse to a rolling cart and then restocking the store shelves. According to his claim, Mr. Garcia was moving a box on September 15, 2013, when he felt an immediate pain around his waist and right thigh toward the groin region that gravitated to his lower back. Except for Mr. Garcia, the incident was unwitnessed. Mr. Garcia did not report the incident to either the store manager or any other supervisor. Rouses' standing policy regarding on-the-job accidents

Page 1159

requires an employee to report an accident immediately to the person in charge of the store. This policy is outlined in the Employee Handbook, a copy of which was provided to Mr. Garcia during his orientation. However, according to his deposition testimony, Mr. Garcia was concerned that he might lose his job if he told anyone he was hurt. He instead proceeded to go back to work for approximately 15-30 minutes but, according to him, the pain was too great to continue. As an excuse to leave, Mr. Garcia told his supervisor that " something popped up at home" and that he needed to leave to take care of the situation.

[15-7 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] Mr. Garcia believed that " maybe [he] could just go home and . . . rest it off and [he] would heal." Though the parties dispute whether he was scheduled to work, Mr. Garcia did not come into work on the day after the alleged accident. Mr. Garcia did, however, speak with his supervisor on the phone in the days that followed but, again, did not during any of these conversations notify his supervisor that he had an on-the-job accident. Rather, according to Mr. Garcia, he was told he was not scheduled to work again until September 21st, and he believed that would be enough time to heal. However, according to his claim, Mr. Garcia's pain worsened each day. Mr. Garcia testified that on the day before his next scheduled shift " he couldn't take the pain" and was intending to go to the emergency ...


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