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Billiot v. Pala Group, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

June 28, 2019

REGINALD BILLIOT
v.
PALA GROUP, LLC GALLAGHER BASSETT

          ON APPEAL FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION, DISTRICT 7, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 17-1425 HONORABLE SHANNON BRUNO BISHOP, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, REGINALD BILLIOT Lloyd N. Frischhertz, Jr. Anthony J. Impastato

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, PALA GROUP, LLC David T. Butler, Jr.

          Panel composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE

         Appellant/claimant, Reginald Billiot, appeals the trial court's September 10, 2018 judgment in favor of appellee/employer, Pala Group, LLC ("Pala"), finding that claimant failed to meet his burden of showing that he sustained a work-related accident or injury and dismissing claimant's case with prejudice. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Claimant was employed by Pala as a welder. In early November 2016, claimant alleged that he injured his back while pulling pontoon and deck legs by hand on Tank 308. Claimant filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation on February 17, 2017. After a trial on the merits, the workers' compensation court rendered judgment in favor of the employer, Pala, dismissing claimant's claims with prejudice. In written reasons, the workers' compensation court found the following:

* * *
All of the witnesses testified that the job at Pala was hard work. However, unfortunately, no one could corroborate Claimant's attestation that he had a work accident. Claimant's accident was not witnessed; no one corroborated his account of an accident or complaints of pain as a result of a work accident. All of the witnesses testified about Pala's policy with regard to reporting work accidents. The witnesses testified about the safety meetings and the PTSA[1] forms which were signed at the end of the day to indicate the worker had no work injury. None of the witnesses could corroborate a work accident, despite Claimant testifying that he informed some of them of his injury. Additionally, Pala presented evidence to question Claimant's credibility and/or veracity by presenting evidence that Claimant spent 11 months in prison for credit card fraud.
* * *
The Court reviewed the record in this matter, including the testimony, depositions and medical records and upon doing such, the Court finds that Claimant is unable to sustain his burden in proving an accident as defined by La. R.S. 23:1021(1). Although there was a question regarding the existence of the PTSA for November 11, 2016, Claimant did not testify that he followed protocol regarding signing in and out on the PTSA. He did not dispute signing in and out on each day. He asserted that he reported his accident to Ward, but neither Ward nor any other supervisor or worker had any knowledge of the alleged accident. Claimant's testimony lacks credibility and the evidence presented casts doubt regarding whether he sustained injuries as a result of a work accident. As such, Claimant has failed to sustain his burden to prove that a work related accident occurred November 2016 and that he sustained injuries as a result of said work accident.

         This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In a workers' compensation case, the employee bears the burden of proving an accident occurred, that it occurred in the course and scope of her employment, the accident caused her injury, and the injury caused her disability. Guevara v. Brand Energy & Infrastructure Servs., 13-331 (La.App. 5 Cir. 10/30/13), 129 So.3d 625, 631, writ denied, 13-2782 (La. 02/14/14), 132 So.3d 964; Gray v. H.B. Zachary Const. Co., 01-276 (La.App. 5 Cir. 09/25/01), 798 So.2d 271, 274, writ denied, 01-2847 (La. 01/04/02), 805 So.2d 207.

         The workers' compensation court's determinations as to whether the claimant's testimony is credible and whether the claimant has discharged his burden of proof are factual determinations that should not be disturbed on appellate review unless clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous. Guevara, 129 So.3d at 335; Dean v. Southmark Constr., 03-1051 (La. 07/06/04), 879 So.2d 112, 117. The findings of the workers' compensation court will not be set aside by a reviewing court unless they are found to be clearly wrong in light of the record viewed in its entirety. Dean, 879 So.2d at 117. Where there is a conflict in the testimony, reasonable evaluations of credibility and reasonable inferences of fact should not be disturbed upon review, even though the appellate court may feel that its own evaluations and inferences are as reasonable. Id. The court of appeal may not reverse the findings of the lower court even when convinced that had it been sitting as the trier of fact, it would have weighed the evidence differently. Id. The determinations by the workers' compensation court as to whether the claimant's testimony is credible and whether the claimant has discharged his burden are factual determinations that will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of manifest error or unless clearly wrong. Forbes v. Metro Developmental Center, 09-901 (La.App. 5 Cir. 03/09/10), 35 So.3d 377, 382; Bruno v. Harbert International, Inc., 593 So.2d 357, 361 (La. 1992).

         FACTS AND ...


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