TASHA GRIGGS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR SON, AUSTIN GRIGGS
BOUNCE N' AROUND INFLATABLES, L.L.C. AND JACK ALAN LEBLANC
WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, FIRST CIRCUIT,
PARISH OF ASCENSION
case, we are called upon to decide a question we left
unresolved in Mott v. River Parish Maintenance, 432
So.2d 827 (La. 1983) - namely, whether a minor who is
illegally hired and engaged in a prohibited task at the time
of his injury is subject to the exclusive remedy of the
workers' compensation law. For the reasons that follow,
we hold that the exclusive remedy provisions are applicable
under these facts.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
salient facts of this matter are largely undisputed. Bounce
N' Around Inflatables ("BNA") is a party rental
business that rents a variety of inflatables for social
events. BNA stored the inflatables in a warehouse on racks
approximately ten feet high and moved them around on dollies,
using a battery operated pallet-jack.
hired fourteen-year-old Austin Griggs ("Austin") as
a helper to assist in the delivering and cleaning of the
inflatables. Louisiana law provides that "[m]inors
fourteen and fifteen years of age may be employed in any
gainful occupation not prohibited in this Part, only after
school hours and during nonschool days." La. R.S.
23:166. However, any person who employs a minor is required
to procure and keep on file an employment certificate for the
minor. La. R.S. 23:181 et seq. It is undisputed that
BNA did not obtain such a certificate for Austin.
Additionally, La. R.S. 23:163(2) provides, "[n]o minor
under the age of sixteen years shall be employed, permitted,
or suffered to work . . . [i]n, or about, or in connection
with power-driven machinery."
accident which forms the basis for this litigation occurred
when Austin, then age fifteen, was standing on an inflatable
as it was lifted to the rack by a forklift. Austin fell to
the ground from the forklift, and was further injured when
the inflatable fell and hit him on the back.
the injury, BNA's workers' compensation insurer paid
Austin workers' compensation and medical benefits. Austin
eventually returned to work at BNA, with his mother's
instant litigation arose when Austin's mother,
individually and on behalf of Austin (hereinafter referred to
as "plaintiffs"), filed suit against BNA, its owner
and insurer (collectively referred to hereinafter as
"defendants"). The suit sought to recover tort
damages arising out of the injury.
matter proceeded to a bench trial. At the conclusion of
trial, the district court awarded plaintiffs $125, 000 in
general damages and $24, 517 in special damages, plus legal
interest and costs. In written reasons for judgment, the
district court found defendants illegally employed Austin
because they failed to obtain an employment certificate. The
court further found Austin was engaged in an illegal task
(working with power-driven machinery) at the time of the
finding the exclusive remedy provisions of the workers'
compensation law did not apply, the district court relied on
Ewert v. Georgia Casualty & Surety Co., 548
So.2d 358 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1989), writ denied, 551
So.2d 1339 (La. 1989), and Patterson v. Martin Forest
Products, Inc., 34, 258 (La.App. 2 Cir. 12/15/00), 774
So.2d 1148, writ denied, 00-3559 (La. 3/16/01), 787
So.2d 311, for the proposition that workers' compensation
exclusivity provisions do not control over child labor laws,
and a minor's illegal employment does not amount to an
election of remedies under the workers' compensation law.
appealed. The Court of Appeal, First Circuit reversed in part
and affirmed in part, dismissing plaintiffs' tort claims
with prejudice. The court of appeal found Austin's
claims were subject to the exclusive remedy provision
contained in the workers' compensation law. In reaching
this conclusion, the court of appeal explicitly declined to
follow the holdings of Ewert, supra and
Patterson, supra. The court instead relied
on its prior decision in Noble v. Blume Tree Services,
Inc., 94-0589 (La.App. 1 Cir. 11/10/94), 646 So.2d 441,
writ denied, 94-2999 (La. 2/17/95), 650 So.2d 252,
which held that an illegally-hired minor was subject to the
plaintiffs' application, we granted certiorari to resolve
this split in the circuits.
Mott v. River Parish Maintenance, 432 So.2d 827, 831
(La. 1983), we addressed the issue of whether a minor who was
legally hired, but performing an illegal task at the time of
his injury, was limited to the workers' compensation
remedy. We reviewed the history of the workers'
compensation act and concluded it applied to the minor:
La. R.S. 23:1035, providing for coverage under the act,
states that the act is applicable to "every person"
with no indication whatsoever that it did not apply to
minors, legally or illegally employed. Furthermore, since the
appellate courts had, between 1948 and 1975, rendered
numerous decisions holding that the act did apply to minor
employees who were below the minimum age prescribed by law
for employment in certain trades or to do certain jobs, use
of the term "every person" in the coverage
provision must have been with the intent that such minors
remain covered under the act.
We find no merit to plaintiff's argument that he is not
covered by the workers' compensation act because his
injuries occurred while he was performing a task prohibited,