Louisiana does not have concurrent jurisdiction between the state workers’ compensation scheme and federal workers’ compensation schemes. Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1035.2 provides that “[n]o compensation shall be payable in respect to the disability or death of an employee covered by the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, the Longshoremen’s (sic) and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, or any of its extensions, or the Jones Act.” If one of those acts apply, then the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act does not.
In a new case, Johnson v. ACE American Insurance Company, Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit explored–albeit briefly–the lack of concurrent jurisdiction in Louisiana. The plaintiff sustained a work-related injury while aboard a boat that was involved in a collision on the Grand Pass. The injured worker filed claims under both the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. At a hearing on exceptions filed by the defendants, the workers’ compensation judge (“WCJ”) determined that the plaintiff’s claim did not fall under the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. She dismissed the case with prejudice. The problem is that the WCJ did not make a specific finding as to whether the claim fell under the purview of the Longshore Act.
Ultimately, the Fourth Circuit vacated the WCJ’s decision, stating:
While we recognize that a trial court has wide discretion to control and move its own docket, we find the WCJ abused that discretion in dismissing Mr. Johnson’s claim prior to the rendition of a definitive determination that Mr. Johnson was receiving, or is eligible to receive, federal compensation benefits for his work-related injury, which would in turn preclude his eligibility to receive state compensation benefits under the [Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act]. Accordingly, we vacate the . . . judgment and remand the matter . . . with instructions not to hear Mr. Johnson’s case until such time as a definitive judgment has been rendered by the federal court on whether Mr. Johnson qualifies for benefits under the [Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act] or other similar federal statute.
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