ERNEST ARMANDO HOWARD, JR.
NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA; GARDA CL SOUTHEAST, INC.; AND MARCUS RENE SLAUGHTER
FROM THE 19th JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT EAST BATON
ROUGE PARISH, LOUISIANA DOCKET NUMBER 637, 505 HONORABLE TODD
W. HERNANDEZ, JUDGE
Bradley Rhorer Zachary S. Walker Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Attorneys for Plaintiff/Appellant Ernest Armando Howard, Jr.
Alphonse M. Thompson, Jr. New Orleans, Louisiana Attorney for
Defendants/Appellees National Union Fire Insurance Company of
Pittsburgh, PA; Garda CL Southeast, Inc.; and Marcus Rene
BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., MCDONALD, AND CHUTZ, JJ.
appeal, a plaintiff in a tort suit challenges a judgment
denying his claim for medical expenses against the
tortfeasor's insurer. The trial court determined that the
plaintiff could not recover the medical expenses because his
employer's workers' compensation insurer had
previously paid them. We find the trial court erred and amend
the judgment to include an award for the medical expenses.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
November 21, 2014, Marcus Rene Slaughter, an employee of
Garda CL Southeast, Inc. (Garda), and Ernest "EJ"
Howard Jr., an employee of Doug Ashy Building Materials
(DABM), were driving in adjacent lanes on Evangeline Thruway
in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. Both men were in the course
and scope of their employment and were driving vehicles owned
by their respective employers. Mr. Slaughter left his lane of
travel and collided with Mr. Howard, who struck his right
knee on the dashboard and twisted his back. Shortly after the
accident, Mr. Howard twice sought medical treatment for right
knee and lower back pain. When the pain continued, Mr. Howard
was referred to Dr. Seth Rosenzweig, an orthopedic surgeon,
in January 2015. Ultimately, in February 2015, Dr. Rosenzweig
performed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus and
to debride a partial anterior cruciate ligament tear in Mr.
Howard's right knee. Mr. Howard followed up with several
weeks of physical therapy and remained out of work until
mid-March 2015. It is undisputed that DABM's workers'
compensation insurer (DABM's insurer) paid Mr.
Howard's medical expenses and also paid workers'
compensation benefits to Mr. Howard while he did not work.
Howard filed this suit against Mr. Slaughter, Garda, and
Garda's automobile insurer, National Union Fire Insurance
Company of Pittsburgh, Pa. (NUFIC). DABM's insurer did
not intervene in the suit to recover the medical expenses it
paid on Mr. Howard's behalf. In a partial summary
judgment, the trial court determined that Mr. Slaughter was
solely at fault in causing the accident. And, after a bench
trial, the trial court determined the accident caused Mr.
Howard's injuries. In an earlier consent judgment, Garda
and NUFIC had admitted solidary liability with Mr. Slaughter,
and that he was an insured under NUFIC's policy, in the
event judgment was rendered against him. By judgment signed
on February 15, 2017, the trial court awarded Mr. Howard $3,
900 in lost wages and $37, 500 in general damages against the
defendants. In reasons for judgment, the trial court
stated that its award to Mr. Howard did not include the $33,
793 in medical expenses DABM's insurer paid on Mr.
Howard's behalf because such was not recoverable under
Howard appeals from the adverse judgment, contending that,
even though DABM's insurer paid his medical expenses, the
trial court erred in failing to award those expenses to him.
In response, the defendants contend they were solidarity
liable with DABM and its insurer for Mr. Howard's medical
expenses, and, as such, DABM's insurer's payment of
these expenses discharged the defendants' obligation to
reviewing this matter, we apply the de novo standard of
review. The issues involved require the proper interpretation
of statutes and an analysis of the applicability of the
collateral source rule, both of which are questions of law.
Silver Dollar Liquor, Inc. v. Red River Parish Policy
Jury, 10-2776 (La. 9/7/11), 74 So.3d 641, 646 (statutory
interpretation); Crockerham v. Weyerhaeuser Holden Wood
Products, 16-0331 (La.App. 1 Cir. 6/2/17), 223 So.3d
533, 537, writ denied, 17-1121 (La. 10/27/17), 228
So.3d 1232 (statutory interpretation); Madrid v. AEP
River Operations, LLC, 14-0044 (La.App. 4 Cir.
10/15/14), 151 So.3d 897, 901, writ granted, 14-2384
(La. 2/27/15), 159 So.3d 1062 (collateral source rule).
SOLIDARY OBLIGORS UNDER THE LOUISIANA WORKERS'
LSA-C.C. art. 2315, a tortfeasor is obliged to repair the
damage he has wrongfully caused to an innocent accident
victim. And, under the Louisiana Workers' Compensation
Act (LWCA), LSA-R.S. 23:1020.1, et seq., an employer and/or
its workers' compensation insurer, is obliged to pay an
injured employee for necessary medical treatment caused by a
work-related injury. See LSA-R.S. 23:1203A and
H68A(1). Sometimes, a workers' compensation insurer is
required to pay, subject to statutory considerations, certain
amounts that the injured employee is entitled to recover as
damages from the tortfeasor. See Bellard v. American
Central Ins. Co., 07-1335 (La. 4/18/08), 980 So.2d 654,
664-65. In this case, DABM's insurer and the defendants
share coextensive liability for Mr. Howard's medical
expenses resulting from injury caused by Mr. Slaughter.
Id. at 665. As decided by the Louisiana Supreme
Court in Bellard, this obligation is a solidary
obligation even though the sources and amounts of the
obligation differ. Id. at 663-66. Also see
Williams v. Sewerage & Water Bd. of New Orleans, 611
So.2d 1383, 1388 (La. 1993) (finding the employer's
liability for workers' compensation death benefits and
the tortfeasor's liability for wrongful death and
survival benefits to be a ...