from the Office of Workers' Compensation, District 1-E
Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 14-07455 Brenza
Irving Jones Workers' Compensation Judge
& STREET By: Curtis D. Street Counsel for Appellant
STAINES & EPPLING By: Thomas J. Eppling Lance E. Harwell
Counsel for Appellee, Central Oil & Supply Corporation
G. JOHNSON, LLC By: Neal G. Johnson Counsel for Appellee,
Northshore Stores, LLC
WILLIAMS, GARRETT, and STONE, JJ.
workers' compensation case, the claimant, Sadeq
Elmuflihi, appeals a summary judgment in favor of the
defendant, Central Oil & Supply Corporation, and the
denial of his motion for partial summary judgment. The
claimant also appeals the award of weekly workers'
compensation benefits in the amount of $208.33. The
defendant, Northside Stores, LLC, has answered the appeal,
contesting the finding that the claimant was injured in the
course and scope of his employment. For the following
reasons, we affirm.
claimant, Sadeq Elmuflihi, was employed as a cashier at a
convenience store in Monroe, Louisiana. The defendant,
Northside Shores, LLC ("Northside"), owned the
store; the defendant, Central Oil & Supply
Corporation ("Central Oil"), owned the premises and
leased them to Northside. Central Oil, which is in the
business of distributing and supplying fuel throughout the
United States, also supplied oil and gasoline to
Northside's convenience store pursuant to a consignment
16, 2014, the claimant and another employee, Larry Briggs,
closed the convenience store at 11:00 p.m. The claimant
provided Briggs with a ride home, as was their usual routine.
The claimant locked the door to the store from the outside
and he and Briggs entered his vehicle, which was parked in
front of the store. As the claimant attempted to drive away
from the store, an unknown assailant approached the vehicle
and began to fire a gun at the vehicle. The claimant suffered
a gunshot wound to the neck and was rendered unconscious; the
vehicle came to a stop after it struck a nearby
residence. The claimant was severely injured and his
medical records indicate that he continues to exhibit marked
weakness in his arms and legs. Northside was uninsured at the
time of the incident.
October 15, 2014, the claimant filed a disputed claim for
workers' compensation, naming "Central Oil &
Supply Corp., d/b/a Hardy Mart" as his
employer. The claimant alleged that he was entitled
to "benefits for permanent, total disability due,
alternatively TTDs or SEBs, with medical benefits, penalties,
attorney fees, legal interest and all costs[.]" Central
Oil answered the petition, asserting that it was not the
claimant's employer and that the claimant was not injured
in the course and scope of his employment.
January 12, 2015, the claimant filed a supplemental and
amending petition, alleging that Northside was his direct
employer and that Northside was "liable, in solido, with
the statutory employer." More specifically, the claimant
alleged Northside and Central Oil were engaged in a joint
venture by virtue of the lease and consignment agreements,
and both entities were liable to him for workers'
compensation benefits. Northside answered the petition,
admitting that the claimant was its employee. However,
Northside contended the claimant was not injured in the
course and scope of his employment.
the claimant filed a motion for partial summary judgment,
seeking a judgment declaring Central Oil and Northside liable
to him for workers' compensation benefits. He argued that
his duties as a cashier required him to manage the sales of
gasoline for Central Oil, which was engaged in a joint
venture with Northside. According to the claimant, since
Northside (the direct employer) was uninsured at the time of
the incident, Central Oil was liable to him for workers'
Central Oil filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that
it was not engaged in a joint venture with Northside. In
support of its motion, Central Oil attached the following
exhibits: a copy of the lease agreement between it and
Northside; a copy of the consignment agreement between it and
Northside; the affidavit of its president, Hardeman Cordell,
in which Cordell denied the existence of a joint venture; and
excerpts from the deposition of Khaled Nagi, Northside's
representative, in which Nagi testified that Northside and
Central Oil were not involved in a partnership or joint
denied the claimant's motion for partial summary judgment
and granted summary judgment in favor of Central Oil. The WCJ
stated, "[A]lthough I do find that the consignment
agreement is very detailed, I am unable to find that a
combination of the contract of lease and the consignment
agreement equates to a joint venture." The WCJ dismissed
Central Oil from the proceedings.
claimant proceeded to trial with Northside as the remaining
defendant. Following the trial, the WCJ concluded that the
claimant was injured in the course and scope of his
employment. The WCJ stated:
At the time immediately preceding the shooting, claimant and
his coworker, Mr. Briggs, were in the process of completing a
close-out procedure on behalf of defendant. It is reasonable
for claimant to be considered "in the act of
leaving" during this close-out procedure. Thereafter
claimant locked and secured the premises of defendant. It is
also reasonable for claimant to be considered "in the
act of leaving" during that process. Furthermore,
claimant entered his vehicle and was leaving the parking lot
of defendant when he was shot. He was both literally and
jurisprudentially "in the act of leaving" at the
time he sustained injury. Inasmuch as he was in the act of
leaving, he's entitled to "a reasonable period"
while still on the employer's premises and he must be
regarded as being within the course and scope of employment.
Defendants failed to present evidence that the shooting arose
out of a dispute with another person over matters unrelated
to the employment. According to Detective Kent, the assailant
was never apprehended and the motive for the shooting was
concluded that the claimant was entitled to the "payment
of all medical expenses related to his work related injury,
including treatment received in the state of
California." Initially, the WCJ awarded temporary total
disability benefits in the amount of $312.50 per week from
July 14, 2014, to August 4, 2016. The WCJ also awarded
supplemental earnings benefits "in the same amount from
August 4, 2016 and continuing in accordance with law."
Further, the WCJ awarded penalties in the amount of $4, 000
and attorney fees in the amount of $5, 000. Thereafter, the
WCJ amended the judgment to reduce the amount of weekly
benefits to $208.33.
The claimant appeals. Northside has answered the appeal.
claimant contends the WCJ erred in granting summary judgment
in favor of Central Oil and denying his motion for partial
summary judgment. He argues that the evidence established
that Northside and Central Oil were engaged in a joint
venture. The claimant also argues that the terms of the
consignment agreement reveal that a joint venture existed for
the following reasons: Northside's employees were
responsible for selling Central Oil's oil and gasoline
products; the store operated under the name "Hardy
Mart"; Central Oil retained the right to determine the
price of the gasoline and the obligation to maintain the
gasoline pumps; Northside was required to operate during
certain hours; Northside's employees were required to
wear certain uniforms; Northside received a share of the
profits derived from the sale of gasoline; Northside's
employees were required to read the gas meters to determine
the amount of gasoline sold and to provide a daily report of
the sales; and Northside's employees were responsible for
changing the signage to reflect the cost of gasoline when
instructed to do so by Central Oil.
time the instant lawsuit was filed, La. C.C.P. art. 966(B)(2)
provided, in pertinent part:
[A motion for summary judgment] shall be rendered forthwith
if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions, together with the affidavits, if any,
admitted for purposes of the motion for summary judgment,
show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact, and
that mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law[.]
courts review summary judgments de novo, using the same
criteria that govern the trial court's consideration of
whether summary judgment is appropriate. Garrison v.
State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 51, 245 (La.App. 2 Cir.
4/5/17), 217 So.3d 586; Argonaut Great Central Ins. Co.
v.Hammett, 44, 308 (La.App. 2 ...