FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION - DISTRICT 02
PARISH OF AVOYELLES, NO. 16-03419 JAMES L. BRADDOCK,
WORKERS' COMPENSATION JUDGE.
A. Losavio Losavio Law Office, LLC COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT: Gary Jeansonne
Landry Attorney General Bernetta Y. Bryant Assistant Attorney
General COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: Department of Public
Safety and Corrections Youth Services, Office of Juvenile
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Marc T.
Amy, Shannon J. Gremillion, Phyllis M. Keaty, and John E.
SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE.
Jeansonne sought benefits from his employer, the State of
Louisiana, Department of Public Safety and Corrections Youth
Services, Office of Juvenile Justice, in connection with
injuries he allegedly sustained in two work-related
accidents. The State denied both claims. The workers'
compensation judge (WCJ) concluded that the claimant proved
only one of the alleged accidents and denied penalties and
attorney fees as to both claims. The claimant appeals. For
the following reasons, we reverse in part and affirm in part.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Jeansonne worked at the Cecil J. Picard Youth Center
(hereinafter "the Center") in Bunkie, Louisiana, in
the position of "Maintenance 2." He began working
there in 2001. His supervisor, Mr. Chris Hines, described Mr.
Jeansonne as a "good employee" and a "[h]ard
worker." Mr. Hines also consistently gave Mr. Jeansonne
good evaluations. Also, according to Mr. Hines, Mr. Jeansonne
did his work without complaining and was consistent in his
Jeansonne last worked at the Center on March 17, 2016. On
June 2, 2016, Mr. Jeansonne filed a disputed claim for
workers' compensation form in which he asserted that he
injured his back in the course and scope of his employment on
June 10, 2015 and again on or about March 9, 2016. The claim
was brought against the Department of Public Safety and
Corrections, Youth Services, Office of Juvenile
Justice and Sedgwick Claims
Management (hereinafter collectively referred to as
"the State"). The State answered and denied that
the claimant sustained an injury on or about the dates set
matter proceeded to trial. Mr. Jeansonne testified that the
first alleged workplace accident occurred while he was
assisting in the kitchen during the supper shift on June 10,
2015. He explained that, after lifting a pot to drain grease
from it, he experienced pain radiating into his right leg.
Mr. Jeansonne testified that the pain was immediate; that he
knew something was wrong; that he told the cook on duty,
Sarah Howard, that he had hurt himself; and that he sat down
after they caught up on the work. Mr. Jeansonne's
accident was corroborated by the testimony of Ms. Howard.
During the course of the evening's work, Mr. Jeansonne
again experienced back pain radiating into his hip and groin
area. He explained that Ms. Howard then advised him to sit
down again, which he did.
Jeansonne testified that the following morning, he telephoned
his supervisor, Christopher Hines, to tell him that he was
unable to come to work due to back pain but did not inform
Mr. Hines that the back pain was work related. Mr. Jeansonne
testified that Mr. Hines visited him at his home three days
later. Again, Mr. Jeansonne did not tell Mr. Hines that the
pain was work related. When asked about this, Mr. Jeansonne
testified, "Because I -- I love my job. I'm
dedicated to my job. I invest a lot in my job, I don't --
I just -- I like my job. . . . the right thing to do is to
put it on my work -- my -- my insurance, so I can get back to
my job and go to -- back to work."
2, 2015, Dr. George Williams began treating Mr. Jeansonne for
back pain. Mr. Jeansonne's medical records from this
visit indicate that the injury occurred at home, and the
record from this initial visit with Dr. Williams was to prove
pivotal in the WCJ's decision.
Jeansonne asserted that the report is "not
accurate" and that he told Dr. Williams that the injury
happened at home because he "wanted to go back to
work." Mr. Jeansonne explained that, other than the
incident in the Center's kitchen, nothing happened at
home or elsewhere to explain why his back started hurting at
that time. Dr. Williams testified:
Q. Okay. Did you ask him why he didn't tell you about the
work accident before you did back surgery on him?
A. You know, he may have. It may have been that he didn't
want to fool with workman's [sic] comp, having to go
through all the rigmarole, you know.
remainder of Dr. Williams's records demonstrate widely
varying dates of injury, including notations about the
accident having occurred at home.
Williams ultimately performed back surgery on Mr. Jeansonne
to fuse the L4-5 lumbar vertebral bodies on July 17, 2015.
Mr. Jeansonne testified that Mr. Hines and the regional
supervisor over the Center, Johnny Qualls, visited him after
his surgery and that he again did not report a work-place
accident to them.
Jeansonne utilized his private health insurance for his
medical expenses, and he used personal leave time during the
recovery period. Theresa Jeansonne, Mr. Jeansonne's wife,
also testified at the hearing and explained that they chose
to use private health insurance because they thought that Mr.
Jeansonne would be unable to have the surgery if he reported
the injury as a workers' compensation accident.
Alternatively, she said they thought that it would be quicker
under private health insurance, thus allowing Mr. Jeansonne
to return to work sooner.
March 8, 2016, Dr. Williams granted Mr. Jeansonne a full
release to return to work. Mr. Jeansonne stated that when he
was reporting back to work on March 9, 2016, he "felt
good" and as if he "could do the job . . . no
problem, " even knowing that he was going to have to do
his full duties. Mr. Hines, though, assigned an inmate to
assist Mr. Jeansonne with his tasks, but Mr. Jeansonne
explained that the assistant never returned after lunch on
the second day. Mr. Hines testified that he did not know
whether the assistant left at some point because it would
have been Mr. Jeansonne's job to supervise him. Mr.
Jeansonne testified that he spent the initial days marking
the soccer field, grouting the showers, working on vanities,
removing vanities, removing faucets, and lifting toilets. He
explained that when he went home every day, he would "go
straight to bed" because his back was "getting . .
. worse and worse." When asked whether there was a
specific task that caused him to feel pain, Mr. Jeansonne
said, that at midday on March 17, he had been changing out a
faucet in one of the facility's cabins and, "I felt
that something was broken again. . . .That's the way it
felt when I come out from under that lavatory. I said
'Well, something -- something's not right.'"
Jeansonne testified that "from March 9 on, " Mr.
Jeansonne complained of back and leg pain. She stated that
his complaints subsequently increased and that every night
was worse than the night before. Mrs. Jeansonne testified
that Mr. Jeansonne had indicated to her that he felt like he
had reinjured himself at work. She could not recall
specifically what Mr. Jeansonne said had caused him to
reinjure his back, but she testified that he told her during
this time period that he was "[l]ifting up on a commode,
grouting floors, wall, on the lawnmower . . . ."
Jeansonne said that on March 17, 2016, he went to the
Center's office, turned in his keys, and told Mr. Hines,
"I'm broken up. The wheel is broken" and
"I can't perform the duties . . . ." Mr.
Jeansonne testified that when Mr. Hines asked him whether his
back was all right, he answered, "'I don't
know.'" He testified that Mr. Hines also asked
whether it was job-related to which he responded,
"'I can't tell you if it was job-related,
'" and "'I know I didn't do nothin'
[sic] at my house.'" According to Mr. Hines, when he
asked Mr. Jeansonne if he had gotten hurt on the job, Mr.
Jeansonne said, "No, Chris, I just can't do this
kinda [sic] work anymore. The wheel is broken."
Regarding the latter statement, Mr. Hines explained that he
did not understand what it meant. Thereafter, Dr. Williams
restricted Mr. Jeansonne from work again.
Jeansonne testified that he subsequently reported the alleged
June 10, 2015 accident to the Center's human resources
representative, Carolyn Hollins, on March 31, 2016. To
corroborate this testimony, Mr. Jeansonne introduced Ms.
Hollins' adjuster's log into evidence. An entry dated
April 14, 2016 reads, in pertinent part:
The claimant contacted me on 3/31/16 around 1:50 P.M. to
advise of this 2015 injury. He indicated that he told his
boss that he was in back pain following the incident but
didn't [sic] inform him that the injury occurred at work.
When asked why hes [sic] just reporting it he stated that he
didn't [sic] want to lose his job or sue his employer by
filing a comp claim. He just wanted to get better and return
to work. He also mentioned that he injured his back while
working at the Department of Education during Hurricane
Gustav but failed to report that injury as well which
required back surgery. He re-injured his back at work on
6/10/15 resulting in additional surgery to his pre-existing
Jeansonne admitted that this conversation with Ms. Hollins
was the first time he reported the alleged June 10, 2015
accident as work-related to someone associated with the
State. He testified that during this conversation, he did not
report the alleged March 9, 2016 accident to Ms. Hollins. Mr.
Jeansonne admitted that he knew he was to report workplace
accidents. He also confirmed that he had reported a work
accident in 2014. At the hearing, Mr. Hines also testified
that his job duties include instructing employees on the
proper protocol for reporting work accidents. Pursuant to
this, he said that he has held safety meetings at which he
reviews the center's policies and forms. He specifically
confirmed that Mr. Jeansonne had attended such a meeting.
Hines testified that Mr. Jeansonne never told him that his
back pain was work-related. Rather, Mr. Hines explained that
he first learned of an alleged June 2015 workplace accident
on March 31, 2016 from Ms. Hollins, who instructed him to
contact Mr. Jeansonne and Ms. Howard to get statements from
them. Mr. Hines stated that he obtained Mr. Jeansonne and Ms.
Howard's statements and that he also completed an
"unusual occurrence report" concerning the alleged
June 2015 accident. Mr. Hines testified that he was first
notified about the alleged March 2016 workplace accident by
Ms. Hollins on June 21, 2016 at which time he wrote a
statement about what he recalled happening when Mr. Jeansonne
came into his office on March 17, 2016.
the alleged March 2016 accident, Mr. Jeansonne returned to
Dr. Williams for treatment. Regarding his first visit on May
24, 2016, Mr. Jeansonne testified that he reported to Dr.
Williams that he had injured himself at work in June 2015 and
reinjured himself in March 2016. Ultimately, Dr. Williams
ordered an MRI, which revealed that Mr. Jeansonne's L3-4
intervertebral disc is herniated and compressing the nerve
root. Dr. Williams has recommended that Mr. Jeansonne undergo
surgery again. Dr. Williams testified that Mr. Jeansonne
suffered an accident, but he could not say whether the
accident occurred at home or at work nor which tasks would
have caused the renewed back problem. Dr. Williams also
opined, in response to cross-examination questioning, that
Mr. Jeansonne's condition could represent a degenerative
process. Additionally, in their respective testimonies, Dr.
Williams and Mr. Jeansonne both confirmed that, prior to the
alleged accidents, Mr. Jeansonne had been treated for back
pain and had undergone surgeries on his back.
the hearing, the WCJ rendered a judgment finding that the
claimant sustained an accident in the course and scope of his
employment on June 10, 2015 and was entitled to temporary
total disability benefits from June 19, 2015 through March 8,
2016 as well as out-of-pocket medical expenses. However,
concerning the June 2015 accident, the WCJ rendered judgment
in favor of the State, concluding that the claimant failed to
prove that he sustained an accident in the course and scope
of his employment on or about March 9, 2016. In so ruling the
Mr. Jeansonne is a person of, in my view, small credibility,
if any credibility at all. We have an individual who seems
self-centered. He testified he never reported this because he
was afraid he would lose his job. This was just the belief
Mr. Jeansonne had that Mr. Qualls said was prevalent in the
rural community. There is no direct evidence that Mr.
Jeansonne knew of anyone who had been retaliated against for
reporting a job accident who had lost a job for having had a
job accident and a job injury, and again, it's just a
belief of Mr. Jeansonne. He was willing to misrepresent to
Dr. Williams that this was not a job accident. He told Dr.
Williams it occurred at home, it was -- he said it occurred
eight weeks prior to seeing Dr. Williams on one occasion,
which would have made ...