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O'Bannon v. Moriah Technologies, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

March 29, 2018

ADAM O'BANNON
v.
MORIAH TECHNOLOGIES, INC. AND TEXAS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY

          Appealed from the Office of Workers' Compensation (OWC), District 06 In and for the Parish of St. Tammany, Louisiana OWC No. 12-07388, Gwendolyn F. Thompson, Workers' Compensation Judge

          James E. Cazalot, Jr. Slidell, Louisiana Attorney for Appellant Plaintiff- Adam O'Bannon

          Christopher P. Ieyoub Wesley A. Romero Lake Charles, Louisiana Attorneys for Appellee Defendant - Texas Mutual Insurance Company

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND THERIOT, JJ.

          WELCH, J.

         The plaintiff/appellant, Adam O'Bannon, appeals a summary judgment from the Louisiana Office of Workers' Compensation ("OWC") in favor of the defendant/appellee, Texas Mutual Insurance Company ("TMIC"), the workers' compensation insurer of his employer, Moriah Technologies, Inc. ("Moriah"), dismissing TMIC, with prejudice. For the reasons that follow, we reverse in part and affirm in all other respects.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The facts of this case are not in dispute. O'Bannon, a Louisiana resident, was injured in Louisiana in June 2012, while in the course and scope of his employment with Moriah, a Texas corporation. TMIC provided a policy of workers' compensation insurance to Moriah. O'Bannon filed a disputed claim for compensation with the OWC in Louisiana against Moriah and TMIC in October 2012. Moriah filed a cross-claim against TMIC, seeking reimbursement for attorney fees and costs incurred in the defense of the matter, as well as reimbursement of any benefits paid to O'Bannon.

         Following trial, the workers' compensation judge ("WCJ") signed a judgment on January 13, 2015, holding that O'Bannon was an employee of Moriah who sustained an injury during the course and scope of his employment with Moriah, and further, that the accident and injury sustained were "traditional" workers' compensation accidents and injuries as defined by the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Act ("LWCA"), La. R.S. 23:1021 et seq. The WCJ cast Moriah in judgment for indemnity, medical benefits and expenses, penalties, attorney fees, and costs of the proceeding for Moriah's failure to timely pay indemnity and medical benefits pursuant to La. R.S. 23;1201(B) and 23;1201(E). Additionally, the WCJ held that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Moriah's cross-claim against TMIC for reimbursement of workers' compensation benefits and dismissed Moriah's claim against TMIC, with prejudice. Finally, the WCJ dismissed O'Bannon's claim against TMIC, with prejudice.[1]

         Moriah appealed the judgment of the WCJ. In O'Bannon v. Moriah Techs., Inc., 2015-1460 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/3/16), 196 So.3d 127, this court affirmed the WCJ's ruling that O'Bannon was an employee of Moriah and that he sustained injury as a result of an accident that occurred during the course and scope of his employment with Moriah. 196 So.3d at 137, 140. This court affirmed the WCJ's award of indemnity, medical benefits and expenses, penalties, attorney fees, and costs to O'Bannon. Id. at 142. Regarding the OWC's jurisdiction over the claims asserted against TMIC, this court held that the OWC had exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over the claims asserted by O'Bannon and Moriah against TMIC, even though the insurance policy at issue might require the application of Texas law to determine coverage. We accordingly vacated the portions of the WCJ's judgment and supplemental and amending judgment that held the OWC did not have jurisdiction over the claims asserted against TMIC by O'Bannon and Moriah and remanded the matter to the OWC for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.[2] Id. at 141-42.

         Upon remand, TMIC filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that its policy of workers' compensation insurance issued to Moriah does not provide coverage in favor of O'Bannon and Moriah and further, that Moriah does not qualify for reimbursement under the policy. O'Bannon and Moriah opposed TMIC's motion for summary judgment. Following a hearing held on December 7, 2016, the WCJ granted summary judgment in favor of TMIC and signed a judgment on January 20, 2017 that: 1) held that TMIC's policy does not provide coverage to Moriah for O'Bannon's workplace accident; 2) gave full faith and credit to a Texas judgment-rendered in favor of TMIC granting a motion for summary judgment and a petition for declaratory judgment-which held that TMIC had no duty to defend, indemnify, or reimburse Moriah in the instant suit; and, 3) dismissed TMIC from the instant suit, with prejudice. The WCJ certified the partial summary judgment as final pursuant to La. C.C.P. art. 1915(B) and issued written reasons for judgment. O'Bannon now appeals the January 20, 2017 judgment, arguing the WCJ erred in concluding that no workers' compensation coverage existed in his or Moriah's favor under TMIC's policy of workers' compensation insurance and that the WCJ erred in granting summary judgment in favor of TMIC, dismissing the insurer from the suit, with prejudice.

         TMIC'S MOTION TO SUPPLEMENT THE RECORD

         While the prior appeal was pending, TMIC obtained a judgment from the 261st Judicial District Court ("JDC") of Travis County, Texas in Texas Mutual Insurance Company v. Moriah Technologies, Inc., cause no. D-l-GN-14-000479. The judgment, signed January 5, 2016, granted summary judgment and declaratory judgment in favor of TMIC and 1) held that TMIC had no duty to defend, indemnify, or reimburse Moriah regarding O'Bannon's claims for workers' compensation benefits in the OWC in Louisiana; and, 2) dismissed Moriah's counterclaims for breach of contract, bad faith, and late payment of claims in the Texas suit. This is the Texas judgment referred to in the WCJ's January 20, 2017 judgment granting summary judgment in favor of TMIC.

         Thereafter, TMIC petitioned the 14th JDC in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana to recognize the January 5, 2016 Texas judgment and make it executory in the State of Louisiana. In an order signed June 13, 2017, the trial court ordered that the Texas judgment be registered, recognized, enforced, and made executory in the State of Louisiana in accordance with the Louisiana Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act ("LEFJA"). See La.R.S. 13:4241-4248.

         TMIC filed the instant unopposed motion to supplement the appellate record with copies of the January 5, 2016 Texas judgment and the June 13, 2017 judgment of the 14th JDC. This court entered an interim order referring TMIC's motion to supplement the appellate record to the panel to which the appeal is assigned.

         As an appellate court, we have no jurisdiction to review evidence that is not in the record on appeal, and we cannot receive new evidence. Niemann v. Crosby Dev. Co., 2011-1337 (La.App. 1st Cir. 5/3/12), 92 So.3d 1039, 1044. An appellate court must render its judgment upon the record on appeal, i.e., that which is sent by the lower court to the appellate court and includes the pleadings, court minutes, transcripts, jury instructions (if applicable), judgments, and other rulings, unless otherwise designated. See La. C.C.P. arts. 2164 and 2127-2128. The OWC has jurisdiction to correct an omission from the trial record on appeal. An appellate court can neither supplement the record nor consider documents on appeal which were not introduced or filed into the record during the proceedings below. See La. C.C.P. arts. 2088(4) and 2132; see also Strawn v. Superfresh, 98-1624 (La.App. 1st Cir. 9/24/99), 757 So.2d 686, 688 n.2.

         The January 5, 2016 Texas judgment is already a part of the record on appeal. The Texas judgment was filed by TMIC in support of its motion for summary judgment and was properly authenticated by an affidavit. See Comments-2OI5, cmt. (c) to La. C.C.P. art. 966. To the extent TMIC seeks to supplement the appellate record with the Texas judgment, we deny the request as moot.

         The June 13, 2017 judgment of the 14th JDC is not a part of the record on appeal; further, there is no evidence that judgment was presented to the OWC or filed into the record in the proceedings below.[3] See Strawn, 757 So.2d at 688 n.2. Accordingly, TMIC's motion to supplement the appellate record with the June 13, 2017 judgment of the 14th JDC is denied. Since it lies outside the appellate record, that judgment will not be considered by this court.

         APPELLATE JURISDICTION

         Appellate courts have a duty to examine subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte, even when the parties do not raise the issue. Texas Gas Exploration Corp. v. Lafourche Realty Co., Inc., 2011-0520 (La.App. 1st Cir. 11/9/11), 79 So.3d 1054, 1059, writ denied, 2012-0360 (La. 4/9/12), 85 So.3d 698. As an appellate court, we are obligated to recognize any lack of jurisdiction if it exists. This court's appellate jurisdiction extends to "final judgments, " which are those that determine the merits in whole or in part. La. C.C.P. arts. 1841 and 2083; Van ex rel. White v. Davis, 2000-0206 (La.App. 1st Cir. 2/16/01), 808 So.2d 478, 483. However, a judgment that only partially determines the merits of an action is a partial final judgment and, as such, is immediately appealable only if authorized by La. C.C.P. art. 1915. Rhodes v. Lewis, 2001-1989 (La. 5/14/02), 817 So.2d 64, 66.

         Subpart A of Article 1915 designates certain categories of partial judgments as final judgments subject to immediate appeal without the necessity of any designation of finality by the trial court, while Subpart B of Article 1915 provides that when a court renders a partial judgment, partial motion for summary judgment, or exception in part, it may designate the judgment as final when there is no just reason for delay. Article 1915, in pertinent part, provides:

A. A final judgment may be rendered and signed by the court, even though it may not grant the successful party or parties all of the relief prayed for, or may not adjudicate all of the issues in the case, when the court:
(1) Dismisses the suit as to less than all of the parties, defendants, third party plaintiffs, third party defendants, or intervenors.
(2) Grants a motion for judgment on the pleadings, as provided by Articles 965, 968, and 969.
(3) Grants a motion for summary judgment, as provided by Articles 966 through 969, but not including a summary judgment granted pursuant to Article 966(E).
(4) Signs a judgment on either the principal or incidental demand, when the two have been tried separately, as provided by Article 1038.
(5) Signs a judgment on the issue of liability when that issue has been tried separately by the court, or when, in a jury trial, the issue of liability has been tried before a jury and the issue of damages is to be tried before a different jury.
(6) Imposes sanctions or disciplinary action pursuant to Article 191, 863, or 864 or Code of Evidence Article 510(G).
B. (1) When a court renders a partial judgment or partial summary judgment or sustains an exception in part, as to one or more but less than all of the claims, demands, issues, or theories against a party, whether in an original demand, reconventional demand, cross-claim, third-party claim, or intervention, the judgment shall not constitute a final judgment unless it is designated as a final judgment by the court after an express determination that there is no just reason for delay.
(2) In the absence of such a determination and designation, any such order or decision shall not constitute a final judgment for the purpose of an immediate appeal and may be revised at any time prior to rendition of the judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties.

         The January 20, 2017 judgment at issue herein, which grants summary judgment in favor of TMIC, falls within the first category identified in Subpart A of Article 1915 because the judgment dismisses TMIC from the suit, with prejudice. Under Article 1915(A)(1), the judgment is final for purposes of an immediate appeal, without the need for a designation of finality. For this reason, our jurisdiction extends to this appeal. Accordingly, ...


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