A road worker for a parish government injured his back and neck while shoveling patch material onto a road. He visited a hospital the day of his injury and was unable to return to work. The parish paid him workers' compensation benefits until it was discovered that the worker served as an umpire for children's baseball games.
The worker said he spent five to six weeks during the summer as an umpire, working three to four games per week. The worker had been an umpire for 20 years and considered it a hobby. He said that he umpired games while his parish supervisor was at the baseball park. Sometimes he was paid $20 per game to cover his expenses, including uniforms, snacks and gas. He did not disclose the income to his employer.
After the parish discontinued his benefits and alleged that he committed fraud, the worker filed a claim for benefits. The workers' compensation judge found that the worker proved that an accident occurred in the course and scope of his employment. The workers' comp judge concluded that the worker did not commit fraud and was unable to return to his previous job but was able to perform sedentary or light-duty work. The judge awarded supplemental earnings benefits. The parish appealed.
judge correct in finding that the worker did
not commit fraud?
A. Yes. The worker did not have a willful intent to deceive the parish.
B. No. The fact that the worker acted as an umpire in front of his supervisor indicated an intent to commit fraud.
C. No. The worker inaccurately filled out the forms indicating his income.
How the court ruled: A. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the worker did not commit fraud by serving as an umpire and affirmed the judge's award of benefits. St. Landry Parish Government v. Rubin, No. 12-506 (La. Ct. App. 11/07/12).
The court agreed with the WCJ's finding that the worker did not have a willful intent to deceive the parish. However, the worker was not entitled to penalties and attorney's fees. The court said that the parish had an objective reason for terminating his benefits based on surveillance video of him serving as an umpire and the inaccurate forms stating his income.
B is incorrect. The court decided that the worker umpiring games in the presence of his supervisor, the same man to whom he submitted forms indicating his income, did not show "devious or fraudulent intent."
C is incorrect. The court said that the worker considered his work as an umpire a hobby and that the money and physical effort involved were "inconsequential" to his workers' compensation claim.
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
January 10, 2013
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