Louisiana: Prescriptive Period Does Not Commence Until Party Has Knowledge of Cause of Action

Applying the “discovery rule” [see Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 126.05], pursuant to which the prescription period may be suspended where the cause of action is not known or reasonably knowable by the plaintiff, a Louisiana appellate court reversed the grant of summary judgment in favor of an employer where plaintiffs filed their death benefits claim more than one year after the date of death, but within a year of their receipt of the death certificate listing the immediate cause of death as an overdose of prescription medication [see Estate of Belaire v. Crawfish Town USA, 15–180 (La.App. 3 Cir. 12/09/15), 2015 La. App. LEXIS 2505 (Dec. 9, 2015)].

Plaintiffs Could Not Know What They Didn’t Know

The deceased suffered a work-related injury and received the prescription medication in connection with her treatment. Her family contended that until they received the death certificate they thought the deceased death was from natural causes. The court indicated the discovery rule applied in the instant case even though plaintiffs’ ignorance was not induced by the defendant. The court concluded that prescription could not have begun to commence against plaintiffs before they learned that the treatment prescribed for the deceased’s work injury could have been the cause of her death, giving rise to their cause of action.

Question of Fact as to Causation

Moreover, the court indicated in light of the coroner’s testimony and the toxicology report revealing high and potentially fatal amounts of prescription medication in the deceased’s system, reasonable minds could disagree as to whether a causal connection could be established between the deceased’s death and medication taken to treat her work injury. Since a genuine issue of material fact existed on the issue of causation, a trial on the merits was the proper proceeding to resolve this matter.

This entry was posted in Case comment and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.