APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION, DISTRICT
6, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 17-5514, HONORABLE ROBERT W.
VARNADO, JR., JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, SHANDA BAILEY Christopher R.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, RENT A CENTER AND THE
HARTFORD INSURANCE Wade A. Langlois, III Brittany A. Cooper
composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Marc E. Johnson, and
John J. Molaison, Jr.
M. CHEHARDY, CHIEF JUDGE
Rent-A-Center and its insurer, Hartford Insurance
(collectively "RAC"), appeal a judgment of the
Office of Workers' Compensation ("OWC") finding
that the plaintiff, Shanda Bailey, was in the course and
scope of her employment with RAC when she injured her neck
and back, and that the injuries she sustained were such that
she was entitled to temporary total disability benefits,
supplemental earnings benefits, past and future medical
expenses, and penalties and attorney fees. Ms. Bailey
answered the appeal seeking additional attorney fees incurred
by her counsel for having to oppose the appeal. For the
reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
August of 2017, Ms. Bailey was employed by RAC as a Customer
Account Representative. Her job duties included interacting
with customers, making customer phone calls, loading and
unloading delivery trucks, delivering and picking up rental
merchandise, installing merchandise, and keeping company
vehicles clean and properly maintained.
August 14, 2017, while assisting a co-worker in moving a
washing machine, Ms. Bailey experienced a "slight
sprain" in her back. Ms. Bailey did not consider the
back sprain to be anything serious or even an
"injury" as she was able to resume working that day
and complete the delivery. Consequently, Ms. Bailey did not
report the incident or seek medical attention at that time.
days later on August 16, 2017, Ms. Bailey was tasked with
loading a full-size mattress and box spring into the back of
the company van on her own. While she was able to
successfully load the box spring into the van, she
experienced difficulty in loading the mattress on her own.
According to Ms. Bailey, she made two requests for assistance
from her supervisor, Tammy Johnson, to no avail. After
several failed attempts to successfully maneuver the mattress
into the van, Ms. Bailey tried to lift the mattress over her
head to guide it into the van and, in the process of doing
so, she immediately felt pain in her neck and the top of her
back. The accident was unwitnessed.
Bailey, a type I diabetic who requires an insulin pump,
became lightheaded and dizzy. She felt the immediate onset of
a headache. Concerned that she might pass out or suffer an
insulin reaction, Ms. Bailey went into the store to check her
blood sugar. She advised her supervisor, Ms. Johnson, that
she was "in pain," that her blood sugar was low,
and that she was leaving the store in order to seek medical
assistance. Ms. Bailey then left RAC with the intent of
proceeding to the closest Urgent Care, but due to her
dizziness, pain, and inability to transport herself beyond
the Walmart parking lot located around the corner, she called
her daughter to drive her to Ochsner Kenner Medical Center.
Bailey presented to the emergency room at Ochsner complaining
of "thoracic back discomfort." The emergency room
records reflect that Ms. Bailey mentioned the discomfort she
had experienced in her back while moving the washing machine
at work two days prior, and reported that she had experienced
a second work-related injury to her upper back earlier in the
day on August 16, 2017, while lifting mattresses. Ms. Bailey
denied any prior history of neck or back problems or any
physical restrictions at the time of the accident. X-rays of
her thoracic spine were taken, and Ms. Bailey was given
Toradol and Norflex injections. She was diagnosed with muscle
"strain, sprain, [and] spasm," instructed to
follow-up with her primary care physician, and was provided a
her initial emergency room visit to Ochsner Kenner, Ms.
Bailey reported the incident to her store manager at RAC,
Jorge Idiaquez. Though Mr. Idiaquez denied at trial that Ms.
Bailey had ever reported the incident to him or that her
injury was work related, the Workers' Compensation -
First Report of Injury indicates otherwise. According to the
report, Mr. Idiaquez notified Rent-A-Center's carrier of
the incident on August 18, 2017. Specifically, Mr. Idiaquez
reported that Ms. Bailey had reported that she was involved
in an accident occurring at work on August 16, 2017, while
she was "dragging a mattress." Mr. Idiaquez further
reported that Ms. Bailey "stated that she was going to
the doctor for her blood glucose. [Ms. Bailey] did not
mention about a work related injury until later on that day.
[Ms. Bailey] stated that she was trying to grab a full size
mattress." Moreover, Tammy Johnson testified by
deposition that Mr. Idiaquez mentioned to her several days
after the accident (but within the same week) that Ms. Bailey
had left the store on August 16, 2017 because she had hurt
having undergone emergency medical treatment, and after
having reported the incident to Mr. Idiaquez, Ms. Bailey
testified that she provided RAC with the work excuse she
received from Ochsner, which was dated August 16, 2017 and
restricted her from work. This document-which was provided by
RAC to plaintiff's counsel in response to a request for
production of documents seeking all work slips RAC had in its
possession-in addition to the First Report of Injury
corroborate Ms. ...