The Louisiana Supreme Court denied the writ application in the Barber case, which questioned the constitutionality of several issues in the Louisiana workers’ comp system. The vote was close: 4 to 3. According to the court’s press release page, Justice Hughes, Justice Crichton and Justice Genovese would grant.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Jennifer Barber Valois, voiced her disappointment in the decision in emailed comments to Louisiana Comp Blog. “As a lawyer is it always difficult to receive a writ denial with no reason or explanation provided in a case involving multiple significant legal issues,” she said. “I think the Supreme Court missed an opportunity to provide additional clarification and guidance on the constitutional issues presented in this litigation.”
The Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration reacted positively to the news. Michael Key, Public Information Officer with the Louisiana Workforce Commission, speaking on behalf of Assistant Secretary Sheral Kellar said, “Barber validates the 2011 medical treatment guidelines process established to provide injured workers with reasonable and necessary medical treatment in an efficient and timely manner.”
Key added further that, “The only portion of the decision affirmed by the court is as it relates to an independent judiciary. This decision permanently enjoins anyone from attempting to communicate with workers’ compensation judges regarding pending workers’ compensation claims. Under the Edwards’ administration, LWC has taken steps to guarantee a fair process. No influence of OWCA judges has occurred or will occur. Assistant Secretary Kellar agrees with the court, an independent judiciary is the cornerstone of a fair process for injured workers and employers.”
For his part, Wayne Fontana, a defense attorney with Roedel Parsons, was satisfied with the conclusion of this case, which has been ongoing for several years. “After years of back and forth to the appellate courts and the Supreme Court, the case was initially whittled down by removing a number of improper plaintiffs and the First Circuit soundly rejected every constitutional attack and rejected virtually every argument made by the plaintiffs,” Fontana said. “While three of the Supreme Court Justices voted to grant the writ and consider the arguments one more time, the majority of the Court was evidently comfortable with the correctness of the First Circuit’s October 19, 2018, decision.”
Valois noted that despite the loss, the suit gave her and her law partner Jan Barber their first opportunity to be a party to a lawsuit. She said that the experience has given her vital perspective. I now frequently tell my clients, ‘I get it, I get it, I have also sat in my own lawyer’s office and cried real tears over last minute court date delays.’ So, for that, I am grateful.”