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Eugene-Robinson v. East Jefferson General Hospital

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 27, 2017

TRAMAINE EUGENE-ROBINSON
v.
EAST JEFFERSON GENERAL HOSPITAL

         ON APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION, DISTRICT 7 STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 16-8125 HONORABLE SHANNON BRUNO BISHOP, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, TRAMAINE EUGENE-ROBINSON Laurie W. Maschek.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, EAST JEFFERSON GENERAL HOSPITAL Meghan E. Ruckman Adam M. Stumpf.

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          MARC E. JOHNSON, JUDGE

         In this claim for workers' compensation, Claimant appeals the judgment of the workers' compensation judge sustaining Defendant's exception of prescription as to indemnity benefits. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Claimant, Tramaine Eugene-Robinson, filed a 1008 Disputed Claim for Compensation on December 27, 2016, alleging she sustained a work-related injury on November 21, 2014 while employed as an EMT for East Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH). She claimed she injured her back and knees when a stretcher on which she was transporting a patient malfunctioned, causing her to drop the patient. Claimant asserted EJGH had paid no wage benefits, specifically supplemental earnings benefits (SEBs), as a result of the accident. On March 9, 2017, Claimant amended her disputed claim to assert that her injury was a "developmental injury." She also removed specific reference to the non-payment of SEBs, leaving a general claim that no wage benefits had been paid. EJGH answered the disputed claim and admitted Claimant sustained a work-related injury in the course of her employment with EJGH, but denied that her injury was of a developmental nature.

         EJGH subsequently filed an exception of prescription on May 5, 2017, asserting Claimant's claim for workers' compensation benefits was prescribed because she failed to file her disputed claim within one year of the date of the accident or within one year of the development of the injury. In support of its exception, EJGH attached various exhibits, including three office visit medical reports pertaining to Claimant's treatment for her injuries and documentation showing that Claimant resigned from her job on August 10, 2015 due to health reasons. The resignation documentation indicates that Claimant gave written notice of her resignation stating that "due to medical reasons, no longer able to perform her full duties."

         The office visit medical reports showed that Claimant was examined by Dr. Douglas Swift at the East Jefferson Occupational Medicine Clinic on the date of the accident, November 21, 2014, and placed on light duty work status for a knee contusion, lumbar sprain/strain, and lumbar disc displacement. Claimant was specifically advised to avoid lifting/pushing/pulling more than 10 lbs. Thereafter, on December 5, 2014, Claimant was again seen by Dr. Swift. The office visit medical report on that date indicated Claimant's status was "Out of Work as of: 12/5/2014." She was prescribed medication and given a return appointment for December 8, 2014. On her return appointment, Dr. Swift noted that Claimant was disabled from December 5th through December 8th, and he placed her on light duty work status effective December 9th with instructions she was only to perform desk work. He further referred her to an orthopedist.

         Claimant opposed the exception of prescription and attached several medical records as exhibits to her opposition memorandum, including an MRI and arthrogram of her right hip performed on February 17, 2017 that indicated a labral tear of the right hip; a February 24, 2017 medical report from nurse practitioner Rachael Sood at Southern Orthopaedic Specialists stating that Claimant could not work until being treated for the labral tear to her right hip; a March 9, 2017 medical report from Dr. Chad Millet at Southern Orthopaedic Specialists recommending right hip surgery; and a medical note indicating surgery was scheduled for May 3, 2017.

         A hearing on the exception of prescription was held on June 2, 2017, during which no testimony or evidence was offered. The parties simply presented their arguments to the court and relied on the exhibits attached to the exception and opposition memorandum.[1] The workers' compensation judge took the matter under advisement and rendered a judgment on June 13, 2017 sustaining EJGH's exception of prescription, specifically finding that Claimant's claim for indemnity benefits had prescribed. The trial judge issued reasons for judgment explaining that Claimant was first on notice of her disability when she was restricted from work from December 5-9, 2014, and again in August 2105 when she resigned from her employment with EJGH on the basis she was no longer able to perform her full duties. As such, the trial judge reasoned that Claimant's 1008 Disputed Claim for Compensation filed in December 2016 was untimely.

         ISSUE

         On appeal, Claimant argues the workers' compensation judge erred in finding that her claim for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits had prescribed. She asserts that she suffered a developmental injury that resulted in a disability in March 2017 when she was told that she needed surgery and told she could not work. She contends that because she instituted proceedings more than two years from the date of the accident but within three years from the date of the accident, she is entitled to six months of TTD benefits under La. R.S. ...


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