FROM THE OFFICE OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION - # 3 PARISH OF
CALCASIEU, NO. 17-02040 DIANNE MARIE MAYO, WORKERS'
J. Rabalais, Matthew D. Crumhorn, Rabalais, Unland &
Lorio, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Chicago Bridge &
Vincent Piazza Scallan Attorney at Law, COUNSEL FOR
PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Ralph Weaver.
composed of Elizabeth A. Pickett, D. Kent Savoie, and
Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.
KENT SAVOIE, JUDGE.
Chicago Bridge & Iron (CBI) appeals the judgment of the
trial court, finding that Ralph Weaver did not commit fraud
pursuant to La.R.S. 23:1208 and La.R.S. 23:1208.1; ordering
Chicago Bridge & Iron to pay past and future Supplemental
Earnings Benefits; and ordering Chicago Bridge & Iron to
pay penalties and attorney's fees. For the following
reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Ralph Weaver filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation on April
3, 2017. He claimed that while working as an employee for
CBI, he slipped and fell as he was stepping down from a crane
on a rainy day, injuring his right knee. The accident
occurred on September 13, 2016. Ralph Weaver alleged in the
filing that no wage benefits had been paid and that all
benefits were terminated on March 14, 2017. He requested
penalties and attorney's fees for the arbitrary denial of
his workers' compensation benefits.
filed an Answer alleging that Weaver's injury was due to
a pre-existing condition and not because of the workplace
accident. CBI further alleged that Weaver made
misrepresentations regarding previous injuries, disabilities
and medical conditions. Due to these misrepresentations, CBI
claims Weaver forfeited his entitlement to benefits and
subjected himself to civil and criminal penalties under
Section 1208.1 of the Workers' Compensation Act.
was held in this matter on April 30, 2018. It was CBI's
position that Weaver failed to provide truthful answers on an
LA OWCA Second Injury Board Knowledge Questionnaire, which
Weaver filled out upon being hired by CBI. In answering the
questionnaire, Weaver reported that he suffered a "torn
maniskes" on February 11, 2011, as a result of a prior
workplace accident. CBI claimed that Weaver
"specifically denied ever having undergone any surgical
procedures prior to being hired by [CBI]." CBI later
learned, through discovery, that in 2006 and 2011,
"Weaver had undergone two prior right knee surgeries for
right meniscus tears."
countered that he submitted a "Medical Examination
Report Form" on the same day as the questionnaire. On
this form, he reported having surgery on his leg, finger, and
elbow. Weaver further argued that as part of his job with
CBI, he "was required to walk hundreds of yards, and
even up to a mile over unsteady terrain to reach his crain
[sic]." He would then climb a ladder between eight and
eleven feet high to enter the crane. Weaver contended that
the evidence showed that he was able to accomplish these
tasks without assistance or accommodations from CBI. In
addition, he was medically cleared by CBI's own doctors
to work as a crane operator without restrictions.
his injury on September 13, 2016, Weaver returned to work
with CBI with restrictions. In February 2017, Weaver suffered
an infection in his knee following a round of injections
which resulted in three missed days from work. When he
returned to work on February 7, 2017, Weaver was told that
CBI would no longer provide him with accommodations. Weaver
submits that, at this point, he became entitled to
supplemental earnings benefits. However, CBI alleged that
Weaver was terminated for cause due to violation of company
policies. It is Weaver's position that this was an effort
by CBI to avoid paying his benefits.
workers' compensation judge (WCJ) found that Weaver
proved his injury of February 13, 2016, and he was entitled
to supplemental earnings benefits from February 7, 2017,
until present. The WCJ further found that CBI was arbitrary
and capricious in the handling of this claim and in the
termination of Weaver's benefits. As a result, CBI was
ordered to pay two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) in penalties
and eight thousand dollars ($8,000) in attorney's fees.
CBI filed a Motion for New Trial, which was heard on June 11,
2018. The motion was denied, and CBI filed this appeal.
1. The Workers' Compensation Judge erred in finding
Weaver was entitled to indemnity benefits from February ,
2017, to present.
2. The Workers' Compensation Judge erred in finding
Weaver did not violate La.R.S. 23:1208 Fraud Statute based on
the multiple misrepresentations made throughout discovery
about his pre-existing condition and treatment, as well as
his disability status.
3. The Workers' Compensation Judge committed manifest
error in finding Weaver did not violate La. R.S. 23:1208.1,
Fraud Statute, based on the facts and evidence presented at
4. The Workers' Compensation Judge erred in awarding
penalties and attorney's fees for the arbitrary and
capricious controversion of disputed claims for workers'
Standard of Review
court in Numa C. Hero & Son v. Leleux, 15-305,
p. 3 (La.App. 3 Cir. 10/28/15), 178 So.3d 595, 598,
Factual findings of the WCJ are subject to manifest error
review. Buxton v. Iowa Police Dep't,
09–520 (La.10/20/09), 23 So.3d 275. Whether the burden
of proof has been satisfied and whether testimony is credible
are questions of fact to be determined by the WCJ.
Id. Under the manifest error rule, the reviewing
court does not decide whether the factfinder was right or
wrong, but only whether its findings are reasonable.