Company commits multiple violations in failing to pay for prescriptions
Case name: Johnson v. Conagra Poultry Co., No. 11-0986 (La. Ct. App. 03/21/12).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a driver was entitled to attorney's fees and $8,000 in penalties for his employer's failure to pay his prescription costs on 13 occasions.
What it means: In Louisiana, an employer's failure to pay an injured worker for prescription medications on multiple occasions will result in an assessment of multiple penalties, up to the statutory maximum of $8,000.
Summary: A driver injured his back while working. On 13 occasions, he purchased medications that were prescribed by his treating physician. The company failed to pay for the medication despite receiving notice of the driver's payments. The driver sought penalties, alleging that he was entitled to a penalty for each time the company ignored requests for payment up to the statutory maximum of $8,000. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the driver was entitled to $8,000 in penalties and attorney's fees.
The company admitted the 13 violations and asserted that its action was a single, ongoing violation. The court noted that the company previously paid the driver a $2,000 penalty for the same violation. The court explained that applying a single penalty would result in an "obvious injustice" since the company would escape the consequences of numerous violations. Multiple penalties encourage employers to honor their continuing obligations to injured workers. The court said to conclude otherwise would "dilute the deterrent effect" of the penalties.
The court said that multiple penalties for multiple violations are allowed. The court interpreted each "claim" as a demand for particular benefits. The company admitted to numerous violations. To award only one penalty would deprive the driver of leverage he had against the company and leave him subject to the company's "whim and caprice," the court said.
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May 7, 2012
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