APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION, DISTRICT
9, STATE OF LOUISIANA, NO. 16-7194 HONORABLE ELIZABETH C.
LANIER, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, ANGELA DOUGLAS LYLE Wade A.
Langlois, III Brittany A. Cooper
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, BROCK SERVICES, LLC Eric J.
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Robert A.
Chaisson, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore
A. CHAISSON JUDGE.
claim for workers' compensation benefits, the employee,
Angela Douglas Lyle, appeals the decision of the workers'
compensation judge that granted summary judgment in favor of
her employer, Brock Services, L.L.C. ("Brock"), on
the issue of whether Mrs. Lyle suffered an occupational
disease within the meaning of the Louisiana Workers'
Compensation Act ("LWCA"). For the following
reasons, we affirm the ruling of the workers'
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Lyle began her employment with Brock in the payroll division
in March of 2013. Her office was located in a trailer on the
premises of the Valero plant in Norco. Mrs. Lyle claimed that
from the beginning of her employment, she observed mold
throughout the trailer on air vents, window sills, ceiling
tiles, and baseboards, and that over time, the amount of mold
increased. According to Mrs. Lyle, she began experiencing
symptoms in the spring and summer of 2015, which included
fatigue, phlegm in her chest and throat, burning, watery
eyes, and sores in her nose. Throughout the year, her
symptoms worsened, and on December 31, 2015, she suffered a
nosebleed in front of her safety manager, which prompted a
testing confirmed the presence of mold and fungal spores in
the offices, the trailer, in which Mrs. Lyle worked, was
replaced in January of 2016.Thereafter, Mrs. Lyle's
headaches and nosebleeds stopped, but she continued to
experience fatigue, phlegm in her chest and throat, and
burning eyes. According to Mrs. Lyle, by April of 2016, her
symptoms progressed, and she started experiencing pain in
various parts of her body, increased fatigue, shortness of
breath, and cognitive problems. In light of the progression
of her symptoms, Mrs. Lyle resigned from her employment with
Brock on June 19, 2016.
August of 2016, Mrs. Lyle began experiencing abdominal
bloating, numbness and tightness in her abdomen, swelling
under her arms, and the feeling of having lumps under her
skin. In addition, her breathing difficulties, upper back
pain, and fatigue were all getting worse. In October of 2016,
Mrs. Lyle went to the St. Tammany Parish Hospital emergency
room two times due to her worsening symptoms. After a battery
of tests, Mrs. Lyle was diagnosed with
sarcoidosis of her lungs and lymph nodes.
November 15, 2016, Mrs. Lyle filed a disputed claim for
compensation with the Office of Workers' Compensation,
alleging an occupational disease and seeking wage and medical
benefits, choice of physician, and penalties and
attorney's fees. Brock filed an answer to her claim on
December 7, 2016, and requested a preliminary determination
hearing in accordance with La. R.S. 23:1201.1. After a
hearing, the workers' compensation judge determined that
"Mrs. Lyle's claim for Workers' Compensation
benefits is denied." In its decision rendered on June
23, 2017, the workers' compensation court expressed that
under the particular facts of this case, the issue of mold
exposure and the consequential issue of a clerical worker
contracting sarcoidosis due to mold exposure at the office do
not fall under the LWCA and further that neither the mold
exposure nor developing sarcoidosis qualifies as an accident
or an occupational disease under the LWCA.
August 25, 2017, Brock filed a motion for summary judgment
alleging that there is no genuine issue of material fact
"that this claim is not compensable because the claimant
cannot establish the existence of an occupational disease as
required by the Act," and thus, Brock is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. In its memorandum in support of
its motion, Brock specifically argued that sarcoidosis is not
an enumerated disease under the act and no evidence has been
presented to show that sarcoidosis was due to causes and
conditions characteristic of and peculiar to the particular
trade, occupation, process, or employment in which Mrs. Lyle
was employed. Mrs. Lyle thereafter filed an opposition to the
motion for summary judgment, asserting that summary judgment
is precluded because there remains a critical question of
fact to be decided, that being whether Mrs. Lyle's
sarcoidosis was caused by her employment at Brock.
September 15, 2017 hearing on the motion for summary
judgment, the parties submitted all the exhibits that were
previously presented during the preliminary determination
hearing, which included, among other items, Mrs. Lyle's
medical records and the deposition testimony of Dr. Lesley
Saketkoo, Mrs. Lyle's treating physician, and Dr. Brobson
Lutz, an expert retained by Brock to evaluate the case. After
considering the arguments of counsel and the exhibits
introduced, the workers' compensation judge granted
Brock's motion for summary judgment and dismissed her
claim with prejudice on the basis that Mrs. Lyle's
sarcoidosis did not satisfy the definition of
"occupational disease" under the LWCA. The
workers' compensation judge subsequently issued written
reasons, in which she explained her ruling as follows:
Louisiana Revised Statute § 23:1031.1(B) provides that
"[a]n occupational disease means only that disease or
illness which is due to causes and conditions characteristic
of and peculiar to the particular trade, occupation, process,
or employment in which the employee is exposed to such
disease." In interpreting La. R.S. § 23:1031.1(B),
the Fourth Circuit has determined that injuries and illnesses
resulting from mold exposure in a clerical job do not
constitute an actionable Worker's Compensation claim as
they do not present an "occupational disease" as
defined in the Act. See Ruffin v. Poland Enterprises,
L.L.C., 2006-0244 (La.App. 4th 12/13/06), 946
So.2d 695, 699-700, writ denied, 954 So.2d 163 (La.
2007); Watters v. Dep 't of Social Services,
2008-0977 (La.App. 4th Cir. 6/17/09), 15 So.3d
1128, 1141, writ denied, 2009-1651 (La. 10/30/09),
21 So.3d 291. Thus, as a matter of law, Claimant's
sarcoidosis is not an "occupational disease" that
is compensable under the Louisiana Worker's Compensation
Act. The Court therefore makes no determination on the issue
Mrs. Lyle now appeals, setting forth the following assignment
The OWC legally erred by ignoring the Louisiana Supreme
Court's last expression of the law regarding what
constitutes an "occupational disease" under La.
R.S. § 23:1031.1 as set forth in Arrant v. Graphic
Packaging International, Inc., 2013-2878 (La. 5/5/15),
169 So.3d 296, in favor of contrary appellate jurisprudence.
motion for summary judgment is a procedural device used to
avoid a full-scale trial when there is no genuine issue of
material fact. Upton v. Rouse's Enterprise, LLC,
15-484 (La.App. 5 Cir. 2/24/ 16), 186 So.3d 1195, 1198,
writ denied, 16-580 (La. 5/13/16), 191 So.3d 1057.
The summary judgment procedure is favored and is designed to
secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of
every action. La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(2).
to La. C.C.P. art. 966(A)(3), a motion for summary judgment
shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting
documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material
fact and that mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. The burden of proof is on the party moving for summary
judgment. However, if the mover will not bear the burden of
proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the
motion for summary judgment, the mover is not required to
negate all essential elements of the adverse party's
claim, action, or defense, but rather to point out to the
court the absence of factual support for one or more elements
essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or
defense. The burden then shifts to the adverse party to
produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence
of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. La. C.C.P. art.
courts review a judgment granting or denying a motion for
summary judgment de novo. Thus, appellate courts ask
the same questions the trial court does in determining
whether summary judgment is appropriate: whether there is any
genuine issue of material fact, and whether the mover is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Upton v.
Rouse's Enterprise LLC, 186 So.3d at 1198-99. The
decision as to the propriety of a grant of a motion for
summary judgment must be made with reference to the
substantive law applicable to the case. Ricalde v. Evonik
Stockhausen, LLC, 16-178 (La.App. 5 Cir. 9/22/16), 202
So.3d 548, 551-52, writ denied, 16-1923 (La.
12/16/16), 212 So.3d 1170.
purposes of workers' compensation claims, an occupational
disease is defined ...