Prior injury no problem for workers' comp

When Edwin Dupuis began work at Picard Steel Erectors Inc. in August 2000, he checked the "no" box for every medical condition listed on his signed medical questionnaire.

When Edwin Dupuis began work at Picard Steel Erectors Inc. in August 2000, he checked the "no" box for every medical condition listed on his signed medical questionnaire.

However, in 1982, while working for another company, Dupuis had fallen 24 ft from a building, seriously injuring his back. For 16 years he received workers'-comp benefits for that injury.

On April 16, 2001, while working for Picard, Dupuis injured his back again. He said the injury occurred while he was pulling a 150 to 200-lb joist up a flight of stairs. Dupuis continued to work the remainder of the week, but on April 23, after he complained of back pain, Picard sent him to the emergency room. Even after seeing several doctors, he was not able to return to work. He received workers'-comp benefits until June 12, 2002, when they were terminated.

Dupuis sued Picard to have his workers'-comp benefits restored. The judge denied his request, ruling Dupuis had forfeited his right to benefits under Louisiana's workers'-comp law by failing to disclose his prior back injury on his medical form.

On appeal, the Louisiana Court of Appeal noted that in January 2001, three months before the new injury, Jeff Picard, the owner of Picard Steel Erectors, had learned of Dupuis's previous injury after a former coworker told Dupuis's supervisor at Picard about it. When asked about the injury, Dupuis told Picard he was currently free from pain. According to the appellate court, the fact that Picard knew about Dupuis's prior injury meant the company was not prejudiced by Dupuis's failure to disclose it on his medical questionnaire. Thus, Dupuis was entitled to the reinstatement of his workers'-comp benefits.

Dupuis v. Picard Steel Erectors Inc., 883 So.2d 1092 (La.App. 2004), Louisiana Court of Appeal, Sept. 29, 2004.

Lending company owes benefits to 'loaned servant'

Pete Morin was working as a pipe welder at Townsend Welding in Massachusetts on Dec. 7, 2002, when he said he suffered torn ligaments in his right ankle. Morin had obtained his job through Industrial Manpower, a labor-brokering business based in South Dakota and Nebraska that provides specialized workers for other companies. Morin received his paychecks from Industrial, which also paid the premiums for workers'-comp insurance, but Townsend controlled Morin's work.

Morin tried to collect workers'-comp benefits from Travelers, Industrial's carrier, which denied his claim, Morin said, because he was hired by telephone from Colorado. Morin sued in Nebraska workers'-comp court, which ruled in his favor.

Travelers appealed to the Nebraska Court of Appeals, which concluded that the state Workers' Compensation Act applied to Industrial because it employed two labor brokers in Nebraska. The court also concluded Morin was an employee of Industrial under the meaning of the Nebraska law. According to the court, Industrial was the "general employer" of Morin, and "loaned" Morin to Townsend, his "special employer." Under the loaned-servant doctrine, Morin could look to either Industrial, or Townsend, or both, for workers'-comp benefits.

Morin v. Industrial Manpower, 687 N.W.2d 704 (Neb.App. 2004), Court of Appeals of Nebraska, Oct. 19, 2004.

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