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Dillard's, Inc. v. Nichols

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

May 28, 2015

DILLARD'S, INC.
v.
LESLIE NICHOLS C/W LESLIE NICHOLS
v.
DILLARD'S, INC

Page 308

ON APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION, DISTRICT 7, STATE OF LOUISIANA. NO. 12-2626 C/W 13-2136. HONORABLE SYLVIA T. DUNN, JUDGE PRESIDING.

AZELIE Z. SHELBY, SARAH K. LUNN, MICHAEL C. MELERINE, ATTORNEYS AT LAW, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

JOSEPH G. ALBE, ATTORNEY AT LAW, New Orleans, Louisiana, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

Panel composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Jude G. Gravois and Stephen J. Windhorst.

OPINION

Page 309

[14-740 La.App. 5 Cir. 2] STEPHEN J. WINDHORST, J.

In this workers' compensation matter the employer, Dillard's, Inc., appeals from both the initial judgment and the amended judgment rendered by the workers' compensation court. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment rendered on June 11, 2014 and reinstate the judgment rendered on October 8, 2013.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 4, 2012 Leslie Nichols, claimant, was working as a cosmetologist at the Elizabeth Arden counter at Dillard's Metairie, Louisiana store. While going to lunch, she slipped and fell on the floor. She did not return to work that day. Instead she went home. The following day she went to the Urgent Care Center. Two days later, she was treated at Concentra, the workers' compensation doctor.

[14-740 La.App. 5 Cir. 3] During this time period, Ms. Nichols was released to return to work without restriction. On February 20, 2012, Ms. Nichols rode in the Orpheus Parade and attended the Orpheus Ball.

On March 12, 2012, Ms. Nichols sought treatment at Advanced Medical Center. She was going for her second visit, on March 14, 2012, when she was involved in a vehicular accident.

On March 19, 2012, Dillard's filed a disputed claim for compensation, alleging that the Orpheus events and the motor vehicle accident were intervening and superseding causes of her condition. On March 28, 2013, Ms. Nichols filed her disputed claim for compensation, alleging that her initial injuries from the work-related accident were aggravated by the automobile accident.

The claims were consolidated for trial. After a two-day hearing, the workers' compensation court rendered judgment on October 8, 2013, awarding Ms. Nichols indemnity and medical benefits from February 4, 2012 until February 10, 2012, when she was released to return to work without restrictions. The workers' compensation court found that Ms. Nichols failed to show a causal connection between the accident of February 4, 2012 and her disability. The court further found that Ms. Nichols' participation in the Orpheus festivities was an independent intervening action,

Page 310

and that Ms. Nichols' disability status did not change until after the motor vehicle accident.

Ms. Nichols filed a motion for new trial. The workers' compensation court granted the new trial, however no additional evidence was presented and the matter was submitted on memoranda only. On June 11, 2014, the workers' compensation court rendered judgment amending its previous judgment. In the amended judgment, the court ruled that Dillard's was liable for both medical and indemnity benefits up to and continuing after the date of judgment. In her reasons for [14-740 La.App. 5 Cir. 4] judgment, the workers' compensation judge reiterated that claimant failed to show a causal connection between the February 4, 2012 work accident and her disability. The judge also found that the evidence failed to show a connection between Ms. Nichols' injuries and her participation in the Mardi Gras parade. The court further ruled however that the motor vehicle accident of March 14, 2012 was compensable and that Ms. Nichols became disabled after the automobile accident. The court then concluded that her ongoing disability was causally connected " between the accident of February 4, 2013 [ sic ], and the accident of March 14, 2012."

Dillard's appeals from both judgments. In this appeal, Dillard's contends that the workers' compensation judge erred in finding that Ms. Nichols suffered a work-related accident on February 4, 2012. Dillard's also contends that the workers' compensation judge erred in granting Ms. Nichols' motion for new trial, and amending its judgment to award additional and continuing benefits.

DISCUSSION

The Workers' Compensation Act set up a court-administered system to aid injured workmen by relatively informal and flexible proceedings. Rhodes v. Lewis, 01-1989 (La. 5/14/02), 817 So.2d 64. The provisions of the workers' compensation law are to be interpreted liberally in ...


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