LAKE CHARLES — The Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that favors an employee in a lawsuit filed against Golden Nugget Casino.
According to the court, Katina Hodges was a security guard at Golden Nugget Casino when she fainted and fell at work in 2015.
The court said the surveillance camera shows Hodges falling near the podium at the entrance of the casino.
“Her lower right leg and knee struck the marble floor,” the court said. “The rest of her body followed, until the entire right side of her body contacted the floor. The right side of her head then hit the floor, and Ms. Hodges appeared to experience a seizure because her body continued moving, yet witnesses reported that she was unconscious at the time.”
After CT scans showed a hemorrhage in Hodges’ brain, she was treated at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital until March 18, 2015, then continued to get treatment with physicians for pre-existing conditions, according to the court.
Golden Nugget said it doesn't owe Hodges benefits because her fall was a result of fainting, the court said.
The workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) said the fall was an accident, therefore the casino owes benefits, as well as penalty fees for failing to pay benefits and attorney fees.
Golden Nugget appealed the ruling, saying Hodges showed inconsistencies regarding her medical and employment history.
“Golden Nugget asserts that Ms. Hodges denied any prior injuries, prior incidents, or prior physical or mental impairments before the accident,” the appeals court said.
Hodges said the brain injury made it difficult for her to remember past events.
After reviewing her medical records, the court said there was no proof that the head injury caused memory loss.
However, the court said Hodges was diagnosed with “major depressive disorder, attention deficit disorder, general anxiety disorder and insomnia.”
The appeals court said Golden Nugget failed to prove “what short-term memory loss or deficit is and how it impacts a person’s ability to recall and report events.”
Golden Nugget also said that the WCJ made a mistake by ruling that Hodges "was injured as the result of an accident.”
Citing the testimony of Dr. Curtis Partington, a neuroradiologist, and Dr. James Domingue, a neurologist, Golden Nugget said Hodges “suffered a blood clot in her brain that is not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.”
The court, however, relied on the opinion of Dr. Rebecca Whiddon, who confirmed Hodges’ injury.
“Based on the events immediately preceding Ms. Hodges’ fall, Dr. Whiddon related the hemorrhage to the fall because she found no alternative explanation for it in the CT scans,” the appeals court said.
The appeals court also agreed with the WCJ in determining that there is a connection between the accident and Hodges’ injuries.
“The WCJ found Ms. Hodges to be credible,” the appeals court said. “Based on the record before us, we cannot say that a reasonable fact finder would not accept Ms. Hodges as credible.”
In regards to whether the accident led to Hodges’ depression, Golden Nugget said “Hodges failed to prove that her depression was caused or aggravated by the accident.”
“It points to the fact that she suffered from pre-existing severe depression when the accident occurred and was found to be disabled by the Social Security Administration beginning Dec. 31, 2011,” the appeals court said.
Although the medical evidence showed Hodges had severe depression before the accident, the court said there is also evidence to show that her depression increased after the fall.
The appeals court added that the WCJ was right in penalizing Golden Nugget and awarding attorney fees for failure to pay benefits.