FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION NO. 14-07466,
DISTRICT "EIGHT" Honorable Robert Varnado,
Workers' Compensation Judge
R. Burgos Robert J. Daigre Gabriel O. Mondino George M.
McGregor BURGOS & ASSOCIATES, L.L.C.COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, FEDERICO ESPINOZA MARTINEZ
O. Person ATTORNEY AT LAW COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE,
JAROSLAV RAMES/WORLD OF TASTE, LLC
composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay III, Judge Terri F.
Love, Judge Rosemary Ledet
F. Love Judge.
appeal arises from injuries plaintiff received when lowering
a washer/dryer combination unit from a second floor apartment
for defendant. Plaintiff filed a claim in workers'
compensation court contending that he was owed medical
expenses and wages that he was unable to earn as a result of
his injuries. The workers' compensation court found that
plaintiff was not entitled to damages because he was an
independent contractor. Plaintiff appeals contending that
even if he was an independent contractor, the manual labor
exception made him eligible for workers' compensation
that the workers' compensation court erred by finding
that plaintiff was not entitled to benefits because he was an
independent contractor. Independent contractors may receive
workers' compensation benefits if they perform manual
labor for a substantial amount of time and the labor is part
of the principal's trade or business. As such, in the
interest of justice, we vacate the workers' compensation
court's judgment and remand the matter for further
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Espinoza Martinez was hired to perform work for Jarislov
Rames. Mr. Martinez was lowering a washer/dryer combination
unit from a second floor apartment with the help of four
other people. Mr. Martinez testified that he received a
laceration on his hand when one of the cords used to lower
the unit "just busted or I don't know exactly how it
happened, " causing the unit to "come down all of
the [sic] sudden." He and the others completed lowering
the unit and then he informed Mr. Rames of his injury. Mr.
Rames drove Mr. Martinez to the emergency room and paid the
initial emergency room fee of $500 to ensure Mr. Martinez
received treatment. Mr. Martinez's laceration required
stitches. When Mr. Martinez arrived to collect his pay, Mr.
Rames deducted a portion of the $500 emergency room fee from
Mr. Martinez's earnings. Mr. Rames informed Mr. Martinez
that he would deduct the remainder of the fee from future
earnings. Mr. Martinez did not speak to Mr. Rames after the
reduction of his pay.
Martinez then filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation
contending that Mr. Rames owed him workers' compensation
benefits as a result of his injury. The workers'
compensation court conducted a hearing and found that Mr.
Martinez was not an employee of Mr. Rames. The workers'
compensation court further found that Mr. Martinez was an
independent contractor and was, therefore not entitled to
workers' compensation benefits. Mr. Martinez's appeal
Martinez asserts that the trial court erred by failing to
apply the manual labor exception to the independent
courts review workers' compensation cases using the
manifest error - clearly wrong standard of review.
Chaisson v. Louisiana Rock Monsters, LLC,
13-1423, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 4/2/14), 140 So.3d 55, 57.
"In applying the manifest error-clearly wrong standard
of review, the appellate court must not determine whether the
trier of fact was right or wrong, but only whether the
factfinder's conclusion was a reasonable one."
Id. A choice between two permissible views of the
evidence cannot be wrong. Id. "Thus, 'if
the [factfinder's] findings are reasonable in light of
the record reviewed in its entirety, the court of appeal may
not reverse, even if convinced that had it been sitting as
the trier of fact, it would have weighed the evidence
differently.'" Id., quoting Banks v.
Indus. Roofing & Sheet Metal Works, Inc., 96-2840,
p. 8 (La. 7/1/97), 696 So.2d 551, 556.
"[w]hen legal error interdicts the fact-finding process
in a workers' compensation proceeding, the de
novo, rather than the manifest error, standard of review
applies." Baker v. Harrah's, 15-0229, pp.
6-7 (La.App. 4 Cir. 3/9/16), 190 So.3d 379, 386, writ
denied, 16-0659 (La. 5/27/16), 192 So.3d 743.
"Likewise, interpretation of statutes pertaining to
workers' compensation is a question of law and warrants a
de novo review to determine if the ruling was