PCI: La. Work Comp Bill Would Create ‘Open Season’ on Businesses; Bill Heads to Full House

May 28, 2004

In a 6-2 vote this week, the Louisiana House Civil Law Committee approved Senate Bill 672, which would create a new cause of action against employers and would open the floodgates for lawsuits, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). The bill heads to the full House for consideration.

“This bill, being pushed by the trial lawyers, would allow injured workers to file lawsuits against their employers while at the same time drawing workers’ compensation benefits,” Greg LaCost, PCI senior counsel and regional manager, commented. “This type of double-dipping would create an open season on business in Louisiana.”

If SB 672 is approved, it would reportedly allow lawsuits when an employee alleges that the employer intentionally removed a safety guard or device and such removal allegedly caused that employee’s injury. The mere allegation would create a new cause of action against employers, and would create an avenue for a flurry of lawsuits, LaCost said. Currently, Louisiana workers’ comp law is intended to be the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries.

“Any expansion in opportunities to sue employers would diminish Louisiana’s economic development potential, as businesses would be more inclined to shun the state when considering locations or expansions,” LaCost said. “The state’s exclusive remedy protection is important. Passage of this bill will be taken by the courts as a signal from the legislature that workers’ compensation is not the exclusive remedy and that they may creatively interpret the meaning of any words within the new statute to permit damage awards.”

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