On Monday, February 18, 2019, the Louisiana Supreme Court narrowly denied plaintiffs’ writ application in Barber v. Louisiana Workforce Commission. The 4-3 decision follows the First Circuit Court of Appeal’s October 2018 decision dissolving a series of permanent injunctions granted by the trial court, and upholding the medical treatment review process enacted under La. R.S. 23:1203.1.
La. R.S. 23:1203.1 authorizes the Assistant Secretary of Labor/Director of the OWC to implement administrative rules establishing a medical treatment schedule. In 2013, a collective of injured workers, medical providers, and their representatives filed suit in the 19th JDC in Baton Rouge Parish challenging the constitutionality of the statute and relevant implementation regulations.
In March 2017, District Judge Donald Johnson permanently enjoined defendants from applying and/or enforcing regulations regarding the following:
- The tacit denial of treatment requests based on failure to respond within five days;
- The process for requesting variances from the medical treatment schedule;
- The process for approving treatment not covered under the schedule;
- The statutory and administrative process for appealing medical treatment decisions; and
- Ex-parte communications with OWC judges.
The decision was based on a number of constitutional grounds including—but not limited to—infringement of plaintiffs’ rights to Substantive and Procedural Due Process.
On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed the portion of the district court’s judgment permanently prohibiting defendants from allowing anyone to attempt communication with OWC Judges regarding pending workers’ compensation claims. The court ordered defendants to take all action necessary to ensure that OWC judges and staff are insulated from influences outside of the facts and law presented to them. However, the appellate court reversed the district court’s decision in all other regards, finding plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of establishing violations of either the state or federal constitution.
This week—after almost six years of litigation—the Louisiana Supreme Court voted to forgo review of the matter. Despite dissent from Justices Hughes, Crichton, and Genovese, the First Circuit’s October 2018 decision dissolving the injunctions will stand. View New Orleans Partner Patrick Robinson’s detailed summary of the First Circuit decision for more information.
Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.