Louisiana Record

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dismissal of truck owner-operator's case against Raceland Raw Sugar, Raceland Equipment upheld

By Dawn Geske | May 17, 2018

| [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana 1st Circuit Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court decision in favor of Raceland Raw Sugar LLC (RRS) and Raceland Equipment Co. LLC (REC).

The case involves plaintiff Neville Patterson, who hauled sugar cane for the companies. As part of his work agreement with the companies, Patterson signed an indemnification agreement and an insurance requirement form, according to background information in the ruling written by Judge John Guidry.

At the time of hire, Patterson was an operator for S&S Holmes. He later formed N-A-N Trucking LLC where he operated his own truck. RRS paid N-A-N for trucking services, while Patterson was paid his driver’s wage through REC.

Patterson claims he was injured Dec. 23, 2013, when a cable that was used to move a trailer broke, according to information in the ruling. The cable caused the trailer to fall into the back of the truck, causing Patterson to sustain neck and back injuries, he claims.

Patterson filed for damages against REC and RRS, stating he was an employee of N-A-N and that the two companies were negligent for his injuries, the ruling said. REC and RRS filed a response citing that Patterson was actually a direct employee of REC and that his contract stated he was a “statutory employee” of RRS. The companies argued that because of this, his claims were barred by Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act, according to the ruling.

REC and RRS filed for summary judgment in the case, which was initially denied by the 17th Judicial District Court. The reason for the denial fell upon the uncertainty of evidence of which company Patterson was actually an employee. This caused REC and RRS to file another motion for summary judgment where they asserted “undisputed facts" show they are immune from liability. The court ruled in their favor and dismissed the case.

Patterson appealed the decision with the 1st Circuit, claiming REC and RSS were at fault for not issuing a new indemnification agreement when he formed N-A-N. The appeals court found no merit to the claim because Patterson was an owner-operator at the time he worked for S&S Holmes as well as N-A-N, making it unnecessary for a new contract to be formed.

The appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision and ordered Patterson to pay all costs of the appeal.

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Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal