Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lyle v. Brock Services, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

July 31, 2018

ANGELA DOUGLAS LYLE
v.
BROCK SERVICES, LLC

          ON 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. Waltner

          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Robert A. Chaisson, and Marion F. Edwards, Judge Pro Tempore

          ROBERT A. CHAISSON JUDGE.

         In this 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' compensation judge.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Mrs. 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 medical evaluation.

         After 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.[1]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.

         By 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[2] of her lungs and lymph nodes.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         At the 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 of causation.
Mrs. Lyle now appeals, setting forth the following assignment of error:
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.

         DISCUSSION

         A 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).

         According 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. 966(D)(1).

         Appellate 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.

         For purposes of workers' compensation claims, an occupational disease is defined ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.