The Louisiana Supreme Court rendered a landmark decision on May 5 holding that gradual hearing loss tort claims against employers are barred because those claims are compensable under the Louisiana Workers Compensation Act (“the Act”) as an “occupational disease” under the Act’s post-1975 definition of that term and as an “accident” under the Act’s pre-1990 definition of that term.
James Clifford Arrant (consolidated with six other cases) was filed in Ouachita Parish by a group of over 200 plaintiffs who allegedly suffered gradual hearing loss as a result of their work between 1956 and 2007 at the West Monroe Paper Mill (owned by Olin Corporation and Graphic Packaging at different times). All plaintiffs were direct employees of Graphic and/or Olin. The trial involved six of the plaintiffs. The case was tried to the bench by Kean Miller litigation partners, Gary A. Bezet and Greg M. Anding on behalf of Graphic Packaging and Olin. The trial court entered judgment in favor of all six plaintiffs in the amount of $50,000 each.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the trial court ruling and dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice, holding that all of the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the Act as an “occupational disease” under the post-1975 definition of that term. Plaintiffs in the case applied for a writ of certiorari to the Louisiana Supreme Court on this ruling. Graphic and Olin also applied for a writ, seeking to have the court find that the claims were also “accidents” under the Act’s pre-1990 definition of that term. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted both writs, and found that gradual hearing loss is excluded under the Act as an “occupational disease” after 1975 and as an “accident” prior to 1990.
This is a significant victory for Louisiana industry and employers throughout the state.