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Venable v. Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 30, 2013

Timothy R. VENABLE; Julia Marie Cloteaux Venable, Plaintiffs-Appellants Cross Appellees,
v.
LOUISIANA WORKERS' COMPENSATION CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee Cross Appellant.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Louis Roy Koerner, Jr. (argued), Koerner Law Firm, Houma, LA, Warren A. Perrin, Perrin, Landry, deLaunay, Dartez

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& Ouellet, Lafayette, LA, for Plaintiffs-Appellants Cross-Appellees.

David Keith Johnson (argued), Esq., Johnson, Stiltner & Rahman, Baton Rouge, LA, for Defendant-Appellee Cross-Appellant.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before SMITH, PRADO, and ELROD, Circuit Judges.

JERRY E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:

Timothy and Julia Venable appeal a summary judgment in favor of the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation (" LWCC" ), which cross-appeals the denial of its motion to dismiss for want of subject-matter jurisdiction. Because the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, we reverse the summary judgment and render a judgment of dismissal.

I.

While employed by Greene's Energy Company, LLC (" Greene's" ), Timothy Venable suffered a heart attack at work in Louisiana waters aboard the Stingray drilling barge, which was owned and operated by Hillcorp Energy Company (" Hillcorp" ). LWCC, Greene's insurance carrier for purposes of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (" LHWCA" ), immediately began providing Venable medical and indemnity benefits pursuant to that act.

The Venables sued Hillcorp for negligence in federal court, alleging that an unreasonable delay in obtaining medical care had resulted in further harm. [1] After extensive pre-trial litigation related to the issue of indemnity, the parties participated in a settlement conference. Although LWCC was not yet a party, its representative was present.[2] Hillcorp and the Venables tentatively agreed to settle for $350,000. The Venables contend that, during the settlement conference, the representative for LWCC expressed that LWCC would consent to the proposed amount. The district court conditionally dismissed the Venables' claim based on the understanding that it had been settled.

After the settlement conference, however, LWCC refused to sign the LS-33 form that the Venables' counsel had forwarded to LWCC's attorney. At some point after the settlement conference, LWCC learned that Venable would likely need a heart transplant, meaning that LWCC would be left liable for significant future exposure even with the settlement of third-party claims.

Because LWCC refused to sign, the district court vacated the conditional dismissal. The Venables then joined LWCC as a party ...


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