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Beasley v. Nezi, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 8, 2017

JOCELYN BEASLEY
v.
NEZI, LLC D/B/A SUBWAY

         On Appeal from the Nineteenth Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana No. C641025 Sec. 22 The Honorable Timothy E. Kelley, Judge Presiding

          Christopher L. Whittington Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Drew Eastman Nordgren Baton Rouge, Louisiana Attorneys for Plaintiff/ Appellant Joycelyn Beasley.

          John E. Unsworth III Metairie, Louisiana Attorney for Defendant/ Appellee Nezi, LLC d/b/a Subway.

          BEFORE: McDONALD, McCLENDON, WELCH, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.

          CRAIN, J.

         The plaintiff, Joycelyn Beasley, appeals a judgment sustaining an exception of subject matter jurisdiction and dismissing a tort suit she filed against her employer, Nezi, LLC d/b/a Subway. We affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Beasley allegedly sustained injuries in a slip and fall that occurred at her place of employment, a Subway restaurant owned by Nezi in Baker, Louisiana. Beasley was employed as a manager and primarily assigned to the Baker location. According to her petition, Beasley was on her "day off when an employee at the Baker restaurant telephoned to advise her the ice machine was not operating, so no ice would be available for the upcoming lunch crowd. Beasley called the supervisor, who was in Greensburg and said it would be difficult for her to get ice to the Baker location in time for lunch. Beasley decided to obtain the ice herself and deliver it to the restaurant. After arriving with the ice, Beasley walked toward the ice machine to see if she could fix it; however, while walking towards the machine, she slipped and fell in a puddle of water.

         Beasley sued Nezi in tort, alleging her co-employees allowed water from a leaking water heater to accumulate on the floor, which created an unreasonable risk of harm. In an apparent effort to avoid the exclusive remedy of Louisiana's Workers' Compensation Act (the Act), Beasley alleged she was not within the course and scope of her employment at any time on the day of the accident. Rather, according to the petition, she delivered the ice and checked on the machine "[a]s a favor and purely gratuitously, " without compensation and without being subject to anyone's direction or control.

         Nezi answered the suit and filed an exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, asserting Beasley's exclusive remedy was under the Act. After a hearing on the exception, the district court found the accident occurred during the course of Beasley's employment, stating in oral reasons that Beasley's actions were for the "benefit of the company" and "the necessities of the business require[d] that she be there and do that at the time [the accident] occurred." The district court sustained the exception and signed a judgment dismissing all claims. Beasley appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         Jurisdiction is the legal power and authority of a court to hear and determine an action of the parties and to grant the relief to which they are entitled. La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 1. Jurisdiction over the subject matter is the legal power and authority of a court to hear and determine a particular class of actions or proceedings, based upon the object of the demand, the amount in dispute, or the value of the right asserted. See La. Code Civ. Pro. art. 2.

         Subject to certain exceptions not relevant to this case, original jurisdiction over all claims arising under the Act is vested exclusively with workers' compensation judges. See La. Const. Art. V, § 16(A); La. R.S. 23:1310.3F; Bracken v. Payne & Keller Co., Inc., 15-1760 (La.App. 1 Cir. 8/10/16), 199 So.3d 1164, 1168, writ denied, 16-1791 (La. 11/29/16), 211 So.3d 389. The Act applies to actions by an employee against her employer for injuries sustained in an accident "arising out of and "in the course of her employment. See La. R.S. 23:1031A and 1032A(1)(a). These dual requirements are distinct but cannot be considered in isolation from each other; a strong showing in one may compensate for a relatively weak showing in the other. See Guillory v. Interstate Gas Station, 94-1767 (La. 3/30/95), 653 So.2d 1152, 1154.

         The principal criteria for determining "course of employment" are time, place, and employment activity. Mundy v. Department of Health and HumanResources,593 So.2d 346, 349 (La. 1992). An accident occurs in the course of employment when the employee sustains an injury while actively engaged in the performance of her duties during work hours, either on the employer's premises or at other places where employment activities take the employee. McLin v. Industrial Specialty Contractors, Inc., 02-1539 (La. 7/2/03), 851 So.2d 1135, 1140. The requirement that an employee's injury "arise out of her employment relates to the character or origin of the injury suffered by the employee and whether the injury was incidental to the employment. McLin, 851 So.2d at 1140. An accident arises out of employment if the employee was engaged about her employer's ...


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