EUCKLE HUNTER, JR. Plaintiff-Appellant
TOWN OF RICHWOOD Defendant-Appellee
Appealed from the Office of Workers' Compensation,
District 1 East Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No.
17-04335 Linda Lea Smith Workers' Compensation Judge
OFFICES OF STREET & STREET Counsel for Appellant By: C.
HUDSON, POTTS & BERNSTEIN, L.L.P. By: Johnny R. Huckabay
II Counsel for Appellee
GARRETT, STEPHENS, and BLEICH (Ad Hoc), JJ.
Hunter, Jr., the claimant in this workers' compensation
case, appeals from a judgment which denied the fraud claim he
made against his employer, the Town of Richwood ("the
Town"), under La. R.S. 23:1208. Hunter contended that,
after he filed suit against the third party who injured him,
the Town filed an intervention in that suit and improperly
sought to recover penalties and attorney fees assessed
against it in Hunter's workers' compensation case by
"mislabeling" these payments as "temporary
total disability." We affirm the judgment below.
was employed by the Town as chief of police. On August 4,
2014, he was injured in an auto accident while driving his
police car. As a result of the accident, Hunter filed both a
workers' compensation claim against the Town and a tort
suit against the other driver.
prevailed in the workers' compensation matter. On
December 14, 2016, a judgment awarding him temporary total
disability indemnity benefits was signed. This judgment also
granted him $300 for reimbursement for emergency room
treatment, $123.65 for prescription reimbursement, $2, 000 in
penalties, $2, 750 in attorney fees, $1, 000 for cost of a
deposition, and $164.75 for court costs. In payment of
this judgment, the Louisiana Municipal Risk Management Agency
issued to Hunter and his attorney a check for $6, 377.77,
dated January 30, 2017. The check stub recited the following:
"Payment Type: Temporary Total Disability. Comments:
Pursuant to OWC [Office of Workers' Compensation]
of this check was entered into the extensive payment history
of Hunter's claims kept by the adjuster. That one-line
entry - which is the centerpiece of the instant appeal - had
the following information set forth in eight columns: serial
number ("582175"), payment type ("Temporary
Total Disability"), paid to ("Euckle Hunter and his
attorney, C. Daniel Street"), service date
("8/4/2014-8/4/2014"), billed ("$6,
377.77"), paid ("$6, 377.77"),
"Aprvd" ("Yes"), and status
("1/30/2017, Ck #365970").
tort suit against the other driver was filed on August 7,
2015. On September 11, 2015, the Town filed an intervention
in the tort suit, seeking to recover sums it paid and
continued to pay on Hunter's workers' compensation
claim, pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1102. During the course of
discovery, counsel for Hunter and the Town exchanged letters
and emails. In January 2017, Hunter's counsel requested
that the Town provide him with "a print-out of medical
[and] indemnity paid" to provide to the tort defendants
to see if they wanted to settle. On March 1, 2017,
Hunter's counsel wrote again, enclosing a request for
production of a "[c]omputer printout or other
documentation of all workers' compensation indemnity and
medical payments" made in conjunction with the accident
and "[i]f different from the amount shown in the
documents requested in Request for Production No. 1 above,
provide any other documents which reveal the amount of your
March 2, 2017, the Town's attorney emailed Hunter's
personnel file from the Town and some of his workers'
compensation records. The email noted that more workers'
compensation records would be forthcoming from Baton Rouge.
In April 2017, the Town's counsel sent Hunter's
counsel a CD with the entire workers' compensation file,
which was voluminous.
23, 2017, Hunter's counsel wrote the Town's counsel,
informing him of a $450, 000 offer from the tort defendant to
settle all claims and offering the Town $50, 000. On June 1,
2017, the Town's counsel mailed and faxed Hunter's
counsel a letter rejecting the $50, 000 settlement offer. On
June 2, 2017, Hunter's counsel sent the Town's
counsel a letter containing, in pertinent part, the
As usual, your client is off to a great start on trying to
resolve this matter. On the very first page of your record of
payments, which you apparently included in the gross amount
paid, is an entry for a payment of temporary, total
disability in the amount of $6, 377.77. That was not for
temporary, total disability but was for penalties and
attorney fees. The mislabeling of that payment violates La.
R.S. 23:1201F(5). Furthermore, that mislabeling is arguable
[sic] workers' comp fraud because it is designed to
facilitate recovery of that amount as compensation when it is
not recoverable compensation. In view of this deception, I
will now have to closely examine all entries to try to
discover anymore [sic] such misconduct. Of course, such
mislabeling makes that a challenge.
On June 16, 2017, the Town's counsel responded, in
My previous letter of June 1, 2017, respectfully declining
your offer to settle this matter for $50, 000, sets forth
that my client [is] in this for a total of $157, 521.62.
Nowhere in my letter does it state that my client should or
could be reimbursed for that amount and there was no counter
offer made. There was merely a note as to how much money my
client has invested in this matter and a respectful
declination of your offer.
La. Stat. Ann. § 23:1201(5) sets forth: No amount
paid as a penalty or attorney fee under this Subsection shall
be included in any formula utilized to establish premium
rates for workers' compensation insurance. No
formula was utilized to claim an amount for reimbursement.
Thus, there is no fraud and no mislabeling of payments.
As you probably know all of the above, and in order to
clarify, you sent another letter dated June 14, 2017,
inquiring as to how much my client claims is reimbursable in
this matter. In that respect, my client has gone through the
numbers and tentatively shows as follows:
The $6, 377.77 judgment payment is payable under indemnity
because there is NO category for payments other than: