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Frazier v. City of Shreveport

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

October 18, 2017

ELLEN FRAZIER Plaintiff-Appellant

         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 573, 975 Honorable Michael A. Pitman, Judge

          MORRIS, DEWETT & SAVOIE, LLC By: G. Adam Savoie Counsel for Appellant

          CASTEN & PEARCE, APLC By: Theodore J. Casten Stuart J. Crichton Counsel for Appellees

          Before BROWN, WILLIAMS, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         The plaintiff, Ellen Frazier, appeals a judgment in favor of the defendants, City of Shreveport and Art Patterson. The trial court found that the plaintiff's exclusive remedy for her personal injury was a workers' compensation claim. For the following reasons, we affirm.


         Ellen Frazier and Art Patterson were employed by the City of Shreveport in the Airfield Maintenance Division, which is located at the Shreveport Regional Airport. Frazier and Patterson worked the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. On January 22, 2013, shortly before 5 p.m., a low-impact collision occurred in the employee parking lot when Patterson backed a city-owned truck into the rear bumper of Frazier's personal vehicle. The airfield maintenance building and adjacent parking lot were enclosed with a barbed-wire fence and marked with a sign reading "Air Operations Area: Restricted." At the time of the accident, Frazier was in her vehicle, which was stationary behind the truck. An airport security officer investigated the accident and prepared a written report. Later that evening, Frazier visited Willis Knighton Hospital for an examination.

         Subsequently, the plaintiff, Ellen Frazier, filed a petition for damages against the defendants, the City of Shreveport ("the City"), Art Patterson and her UM insurer, State Farm Fire & Casualty Company. The motions for summary judgment filed by the City and plaintiff were denied by the district court. Plaintiff later agreed to dismiss her claims against State Farm. After a trial, the district court concluded that the plaintiff's injury was covered by workers' compensation, finding that the accident occurred on the employer's premises before 5 p.m., when plaintiff was still on duty, and that she faced a risk of an accident when parking greater than that of the general public, because her employment required using that small lot in a restricted area. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of the defendants, dismissing plaintiff's claim for damages. Plaintiff appeals the judgment.


         The plaintiff contends the trial court erred in finding that her recovery was limited to workers' compensation benefits. Plaintiff argues that workers' compensation is not applicable because she was not performing work duties at the time of the accident and the location did not present any special hazards to the employees.

         An employee has the right to recover workers' compensation benefits when injured by an "accident arising out of and in the course of" his employment. La. R.S. 23:1031(A). An accident occurs in the course of employment when the employee sustains an injury while engaged in performing his duties during work hours, either on the employer's premises or where job activities take place. The principal criteria for determining course of employment are time, place and employment activity. Lafitte-Nesom v. Christus Schumpert Highland, 50, 496 (La.App. 2 Cir. 2/24/16), 188 So.3d 1100. An accident arises out of employment if the risk from which the injury resulted is greater for the employee than for a person not engaged in the employment. The "arising out of" requirement depends on the character of the risk that caused the injury and on the relationship of that risk to the employment. Lafitte-Nesom, supra.

         The dual requirements, "arising out of" and "in the course of" employment, have been treated by the courts as mutually interdependent concepts such that a strong showing of one can overcome a weaker showing of the other. Lafitte-Nesom, supra. Our jurisprudence has been inclined toward coverage of injuries on the employer's premises within a reasonable time after completion of an employee's work day. Even if an employee has finished his day's work and is in the act of leaving, he is entitled to a reasonable period while still on the employer's premises that is regarded as within the course of employment. Mitchell v. Brookshire Grocery Co., 26, 755 (La.App. 2 Cir. 4/5/95), 653 So.2d 202, writ denied, 95-1115 (La. 6/16/95), 655 So.2d 339. An accident has been held to arise out of employment if the conditions or obligations of the employment caused the employee in the course of employment to be at the place of the accident at the time the accident occurred. Mitchell, supra. Factual findings by a trier of fact will not be disturbed absent manifest error based upon a review of the record as a whole. Rosell v. Esco, 549 So.2d 840 (La. 1989).

         In the present case, Art Patterson testified that he is employed by the City as an airfield lighting technician, that he drives his personal car to work and uses a city-owned truck to perform his job duties. Patterson stated that he and plaintiff worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday and that the accident occurred in the airfield maintenance parking lot, which is the designated parking area for maintenance employees. Patterson testified that on the date of the accident he had driven the work truck to the employee lot to move some personal items from the truck to his private car. He stated that airfield maintenance employees often waited in the parking lot for 10-15 minutes before the work day ended, but were not allowed to leave until 5 p.m. Patterson testified that as he was getting back into the truck, he saw plaintiff get in her car and leave the parking space. He stated that he did not know that plaintiff had stopped behind the truck because material in the bed of the truck blocked his view. Patterson testified that he slowly backed the truck a short distance and hit the rear bumper of plaintiff's stationary car. Patterson stated that after the accident, he asked plaintiff why she had stopped behind the truck and she said because it was not yet time to leave. Patterson testified that he knew the accident happened at ten minutes before 5 p.m. because he had looked at his watch and saw the time. He stated that once the ...

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