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Wilson v. St. Helena School Board And Luba Casualty Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

June 3, 2019

ANGELA WILSON
v.
ST. HELENA SCHOOL BOARD AND LUBA CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY

          ON APPEAL FROM THE WORKERS COMPENSATION ADMINISTRATION, DISTRICT 6, NUMBER 1801292 STATE OF LOUISIANA HONORABLE ROBERT W. VARNADO, JR., OWC

          Brad O. Price Denham Springs, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff -Appellant Angela Wilson

          Richard J. Voelker Stephen W. Brooks, Jr. Covington, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant -Appellee LURA Casualty Insurance Company, and its insured, St. Helena School Board

          BEFORE: WELCH, CHUTZ, AND LANIER, JJ.

          CHUTZ, J.

         Claimant-appellant, Angela Wilson, appeals the judgment of the Office of Workers' Compensation (OWC), sustaining a dilatory exception raising the objection of prematurity and dismissing, without prejudice, her claims for indemnity and medical benefits, as well as penalties, attorney fees, and judicial interest, against St. Helena School Board (SHSB) and its insurer LUBA Insurance Company (LUBA). We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 23, 2018, Wilson filed a disputed claim for compensation (Form 1008 disputed claim), naming SHSB and LUBA as defendants. She indicated that her occupation was "[t]eacher," SHSB was her employer, and the part of her body injured was "low back." Identifying the date of injury as April 28, 2017, Wilson described the accident and injury as follows: "On a field trip to Celebration Station and the roller coaster came loose." Wilson noted that she reported the accident on April 28, 2017 to "Donna Jackson," whose position with SHSB was "modified principal." Wilson averred as bona fide disputes: no wages had been paid; no medical treatment had been authorized; and her entitlement to penalties, attorney fees, and judicial interest. Her Form 1008 disputed claim contained no other allegations. She left blank the portions of the form that allowed her to indicate her average weekly wage, the compensation rate, and a list of "the names, addresses, [and] telephone numbers of any witnesses." The section entitled "MEDICAL BENEFITS," which permitted a claimant to "[s]tate the names, addresses and telephone numbers of hospitals, clinics and doctors who have provided medical attention" was likewise left empty.

         SHSB and LUBA responded to Wilson's Form 1008 disputed claim on April 4, 2018, by filing a dilatory exception raising the objection of prematurity along with their answer to Wilson's claims. In their allegations supporting the prematurity exception, SHSB and LUBA recognized that Wilson had filed a Form 1008 formal claim for injuries arising out of an alleged incident while she was employed with SHSB. Noting that Wilson had not completed or signed a written incident report, SHSB and LUBA averred that she had not requested approval for medical evaluation or treatment. They also pleaded that since the alleged incident, they were unaware of Wilson having submitted or requested the initiation of weekly indemnity benefits supported by a medical slip of disability. As such, defendants asserted that her suit was premature. SHSB and LUBA also answered the suit, reiterating the same core allegations set out in the exception and adding multiple defenses including that she is not entitled to wage benefits for any period that she worked and was paid her full salary.

         After a hearing, OWC sustained the exception of prematurity and dismissed Wilson's disputed claim for workers' compensation benefits without prejudice. This appeal followed.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         The dilatory exception of prematurity is provided in La. C.C.P. art. 926. The exception of prematurity questions whether the cause of action has matured to the point where it is ripe for judicial determination. An action will be deemed premature when it is brought before the right to enforce it has accrued. La. C.C.P. art. 423. The exception raising the objection of prematurity is generally utilized in cases where the law has provided a procedure for a claimant to seek administrative relief before resorting to judicial action. The exceptor bears the burden of proving prematurity. S. Framers of Louisiana, LLC v. Doctors Hosp. of Slidell, 2015-1878(La.App. 1st Cir. 8/31/16), 202 So.3d 1135, 1137.

         On appeal, pointing to La. R.S. 23:1314, Wilson maintains that OWC erred in sustaining the prematurity exception without first determining whether any benefits were owed. She buttresses her assertion with the language of La. R.S. 23:1314 to suggest that a claimant need only allege that indemnity ...


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