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.

Donahue v. Republic National Distributing Company, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 29, 2018

JOSHUA DONAHUE ET AL.
v.
REPUBLIC NATIONAL DISTRIBUTING COMPANY, LLC ET AL.

         SECTION: “H” (1)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Republic National Distributing Company, LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 212). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         This action arises from injuries that Plaintiff Joshua Donahue suffered while working in the facility of Defendant Republic National Distribution Company, LLC (“Republic”). Republic distributes alcohol products. To replace an outdated conveyor system in its warehouse in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Republic contracted with Defendant W&H Systems, Inc. (“W&H Systems”) to install a new conveyor in the warehouse. W&H Systems then contracted with Defendant Darana Hybrid, Inc. (“Darana”) to perform electrical work as part of that installation. At the time, Darana had an outstanding contract with Defendant American ManPower Services, Inc. (“AMPS”) whereby AMPS provided labor to Darana. Plaintiff worked for AMPS and under the contract with Darana was assigned to Darana's electrical project for W&H Systems at the Republic facility. On July 29, 2015, while descending a scaffold in Republic's facility, Plaintiff was struck in the head by the blades of an unguarded overhead fan.

         Plaintiff filed this suit on June 8, 2016, in Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans asserting claims for negligence and premises liability. Defendants removed the action to this Court on August 18, 2016.

         On September 21, 2018, Defendant Republic filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asserting immunity from Plaintiff's tort claims under the Louisiana Worker's Compensation Law.[1] Specifically, Republic argues it enjoys immunity from tort liability as Plaintiff's “statutory employer.”[2] Plaintiff opposes.[3]

         This Court previously recognized Defendants W&H Systems and Darana as Plaintiff's statutory employers and accordingly granted Motions for Summary Judgment in their favor.[4] The Court heard oral argument on Defendant Republic's Motion for Summary Judgment on October 24, 2018.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations. . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[5] A genuine issue of fact exists only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[6]

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court views facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor.[7] “If the moving party meets the initial burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce evidence or designate specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial.”[8] Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case.”[9] “In response to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmovant must identify specific evidence in the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party's claim, and such evidence must be sufficient to sustain a finding in favor of the nonmovant on all issues as to which the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof at trial.”[10] The Court does “not . . . in the absence of any proof, assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.”[11] Additionally, “[t]he mere argued existence of a factual dispute will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion.”[12]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         The Louisiana Worker's Compensation Law (“LWCL”) provides employers immunity from tort liability for injuries their employees suffer in the course and scope of employment.[13] When an employer enters into a contract with a “principal” to perform the principal's work, and the principal qualifies as a “statutory employer” under the LWCL, tort immunity extends to the principal.[14]

         In this case, Defendant Republic argues that it enjoys immunity from Plaintiff's tort claims against it because it is a statutory employer of Plaintiff. Plaintiff responds first that Republic is not a “principal” as defined in the LWCL, and that even if it is, Republic still does not qualify as Plaintiff's statutory employer. This Court assumes for purposes of argument that Republic qualifies as a principal under the LWCL.[15] Even so, Republic fails to qualify as a statutory employer under Louisiana law.

         Louisiana Revised Statute § 23:1061 establishes the requirements that a principal must meet to qualify as a statutory employer.[16] Although the statute is relatively lengthy, it cannot be properly interpreted without reference to each subsection in the statute. As such, this Court reproduces the entire text of the statute here.

         The statute provides:

(1) Subject to the provisions of Paragraphs (2) and (3) of this Subsection, when any “principal” as defined in R.S. 23:1032(A)(2), undertakes to execute any work, which is a part of his trade, business, or occupation and contracts with any person, in this Section referred to as the “contractor”, for the execution by or under the contractor of the whole or any part of the work undertaken by the principal, the principal, as a statutory employer, shall be granted the exclusive remedy protections of R.S. 23:1032 and shall be liable to pay to any employee employed in the execution of the work or to his dependent, any compensation under this Chapter which he would have been liable to pay if the employee had been immediately employed by him; and where compensation is claimed from, or proceedings are taken against, the principal, then, in the application of this Chapter reference to the principal shall be substituted for reference to the employer, except that the amount of compensation shall be calculated with reference to the earnings of the employee under the employer by whom he is immediately employed. For purposes of this Section, work shall be considered part of the principal's trade, business, or occupation if it is an integral part of or essential to the ability of the principal to generate that individual principal's goods, products, or services.
(2) A statutory employer relationship shall exist whenever the services or work provided by the immediate employer is contemplated by or included in a contract between the principal and any person or entity other than the employee's immediate employer.
(3) Except in those instances covered by Paragraph (2) of this Subsection, a statutory employer relationship shall not exist between the principal and the contractor's employees, whether they are direct employees or statutory employees, unless there is a written contract between the principal and a contractor which is the employee's immediate employer or his statutory employer, which recognizes the principal as a statutory employer.[17]

         The statute, then, clearly provides that a statutory employer relationship “shall not exist” unless one of two situations arise: either (1) “there is a written contract . . . which recognizes the principal as a statutory employer;” or (2) “whenever the services or work provided by the immediate employer is contemplated by or included in a contract between the principal and any person or entity other than the employee's immediate employer.”[18]

         In this case, Republic does not argue that any written contract exists between it and anyone else that expressly recognizes it as a statutory employer of Plaintiff. Therefore, Republic can only qualify as a statutory employer under § 1061(A)(2), which is commonly referred to as the “two-contract” defense.[19]

         I. The Two-Contract Defense Does Not Apply to Republic

         “The ‘two-contract' defense applies when: (1) the principal enters into a contract with a third party; (2) pursuant to that contract, work must be performed; and (3) in order for the principal to fulfill its contractual obligation to perform the work, the principal enters into a subcontract for all or part of the work performed.”[20] Republic argues that it meets the first element because it is a principal that contracted with suppliers of alcohol products to distribute those products to vendors throughout Louisiana.[21] It argues that it meets the second element because for it to honor its obligations to those suppliers, Republic needed to install a new conveyor system.[22] And finally, Republic argues that it meets the third element because it entered into a subcontract with W&H Systems to install the conveyor system.[23]

         Republic, however, overstates the scope of the two-contract defense. Under Republic's interpretation of the defense, virtually all businesses would qualify as statutory employers. But the defense has never been interpreted so broadly. As stated by Louisiana's Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in a case cited to by Defendant Republic, “the purpose behind the two contract theory is to establish a compensation obligation on the part of the principal who contractually obligates itself to a party for the performance of work and who then subcontracts with intermediaries whose employees perform any part of that work.”[24] Republic argues that the relevant “work” it contracted for with a third party was the distribution of alcohol products. It further argues that Plaintiff's work installing the new conveyor system in Republic's warehouse represented “part of that work.” This Court refuses to adopt such a broad definition of the word ...


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.