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Ramus v. KCJS Trucking, LLC

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

September 27, 2019

TINA RAMUS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF XANDER RAMUS (DECEDENT: (STEPHEN RICKETSON)
v.
KCJS TRUCKING, LLC TINA RAMUS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF MADISON RICKETSON (DECEDENT: STEPHEN RICKETSON)
v.
KCJS TRUCKING, LLC

          On Appeal from the Office of Workers' Compensation In and for the Parish of East Baton Rouge State of Louisiana District 6 Docket Nos. 16- 02946 c/ w 16- 02905 Robert W.Varnado, Workers' Compensation Judge

          Christopher R. Schwartz Luc D. Zeller Metairie, Louisiana Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant Tina Ramus, on behalf of Xander Ramus

          Kirk L. Landry Virginia J. McLin Baton Rouge, Louisiana Counsel for Defendant/ Appellee KCJS Trucking, LLC

          Brad O. Price Denham Springs, Louisiana Counsel for 3rd Party Defendant/Appellee Sasha Ricketson and Dylon Berry Individually and/ or through Danielle Berry

          BEFORE: McCLENDON, WELCH, AND HOLDRIDGE, JJ.

          MCCLENDON, J.

         In this workers' compensation case, the plaintiff appeals the Office of Workers' Compensation (OWC) judgments that granted the defendant's motion to strike and motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, we vacate the judgment granting the motion to strike and affirm the summary judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This matter arises out of the unfortunate death of Stephen Ricketson, whose vehicle was struck by a train on May 10, 2015. Mr. Ricketson was an employee of KCJS Trucking, LLC (KCJS) at the time of his death. Louisiana Construction & Industry Self Insurers Fund, as the workers' compensation provider of KCJS, has voluntarily paid and continues to pay workers' compensation death benefits to his widow, Sasha Ricketson. Tina Ramus contends that her children, Madison Ricketson and Xander Ramus, are the biological children of Mr. Ricketson and entitled to workers' compensation benefits as a result of his death.[1]

         The present litigation began on May 6, 2016, when Ms. Ramus, on behalf of Xander Ramus, filed a disputed claim for compensation seeking workers' compensation benefits for the death of Mr. Ricketson while in the course and scope of his employment with KGS.[2] After counsel was enrolled, Ms. Ramus amended the disputed claim for compensation to specifically assert that Xander was entitled to a percentage of the death benefits being paid to Ms. Ricketson. The amendment also added as parties Ms. Ricketson, as Mr. Ricketson's widow, and Danielle Barry, on behalf of Dylan Barry, another minor child of Mr. Ricketson, asserting that each party in this matter was entitled to a percentage of the death benefits owed. The disputed claim for compensation was amended a second time to assert that Xander was financially dependent on Mr. Ricketson.

         On July 16, 2018, KCJS filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that in order to receive a portion of the workers' compensation benefits, Ms. Ramus had to establish that Xander was a dependent of Mr. Ricketson at the time of his death. KCJS alleged that no evidence had been presented to establish Xander's dependency. Ms. Ramus opposed the motion for summary judgment, attaching two exhibits. In response, KGS filed a reply memorandum and a motion to strike, objecting to the timeliness of the opposition, as well as to the evidence offered by Ms. Ramus. Following a hearing on August 30, 2018, the OWC granted the motion to strike and thereafter granted the motion for summary judgment. On September 6, 2018, the OWC signed separate judgments, granting the motion to strike and granting the motion for summary judgment, dismissing the claims of Ms. Ramus, on behalf of Xander Ramus, with prejudice.[3] After her motion for rehearing was denied, Ms. Ramus filed the present appeal, contending that the OWC erred in granting the motion to strike and the motion for summary judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         The determination of motions for summary judgment in workers' compensation cases is subject to the same standards utilized in ordinary civil actions. O'Bannon v. Moriah Technologies, Inc., 17-0728 (La.App. 1 Or. 3/29/18), 248 So.3d 392, 399. After an opportunity for adequate discovery, a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the motion, memorandum, and supporting documents show that there is no genuine issue as to material fact and that the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966A(3). The only documents that may be filed in support of or in opposition to the motion are pleadings, memoranda, affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, certified medical records, written stipulations, and admissions. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966A(4).

         The burden of proof rests with the mover. Nevertheless, if the mover will not bear the burden of proof at trial on the issue that is before the court on the motion for summary judgment, the mover's burden does not require him to negate all essential claims of the adverse party's claim, but rather, to point out to the court the absence of factual support for one or more elements essential to the adverse party's claim, action, or defense. Thereafter, the burden is on the adverse party to produce factual support sufficient to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact or that the mover is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966D(1).

         Unless extended by the court and agreed to by all of the parties, a motion for summary judgment shall be filed, opposed, or replied to in accordance with the following relevant provisions: the motion for summary judgment and all documents in support thereof shall be filed and served not less than sixty-five days prior to the trial; any opposition to the motion and all documents in support of the opposition shall be filed and served not less than fifteen days prior to the hearing on the motion; and any reply memorandum shall be filed and served not less than five days prior to the hearing on the motion. No additional documents may be filed with the reply memorandum. LSA-C.C.P. art. 966B.

         In ruling on the motion for summary judgment, the court may consider only those documents filed in support of or in opposition to the motion for summary judgment and shall consider any documents to which no objection is made. Any objection to a document shall be raised in a timely filed opposition or reply memorandum. The ...


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