How Long to File for Death Benefits in Occupational Disease Cases:

Decedent was a retired firefighter with the Jefferson Parish Fire Department.  He passed away on May 5, 2013.  On January 7, 2015, his widow filed a disputed claim for compensation seeking death benefits pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1231.  Plaintiff alleged that her husband filed a workers’ compensation claim in 2004 for which he received benefits until the time of his death.  She further alleged that he suffered a heart attack on the date of his death, and the coroner amended the death certificate in October 2014 to reflect that the cause of death was the heart attack.

Defendant filed a peremptory exception of prescription, arguing that Plaintiff’s claim was filed more than one year after the date of her husband’s death and time barred by La. R.S. 23:1209.  Plaintiff opposed the exception, arguing that the prescriptive period commenced on the date that she had reasonable grounds to believe that the death resulted from an occupational disease, pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1031.1(F).  The workers’ compensation court granted the exception and found that the prescriptive period provided by Section 1209 was applicable, and Plaintiff’s claim prescribed one year from her husband’s death.

On appeal, the court vacated the judgment and remanded the case.  The court found that Section 1031.1(F) was the proper statute to apply in cases stemming from occupational diseases.  However, the court noted that it was unable to determine whether or not the ultimate outcome of the case was correct, as it was unclear at what date Plaintiff had reasonable grounds to believe that the death resulted from an occupational disease.  Accordingly, the case was remanded to determine whether Plaintiff became aware the death was caused by her husband’s occupational disease when she received the amended death certificate or if she should have reasonably known sooner given his history of heart disease.

Butler v. Jefferson Parish Fire Department (La. App 5 Cir. 2016)

occupational diseases

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