Louie v. BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc.: On New Law and Ongoing Workers’ Compensation Cases

Greensboro workers’ compensation attorneys know that employers and their insurance companies often try to deny paying benefits by claiming that an employee’s injuries were not work-related. In Richard Louie v. BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc., and Ace USA, Richard Louie worked for the appellee (BP) as an auditor. He was a highly paid employee and earned over $100,000 per year. His job required him to travel, and, in January of 2000, he was traveling to London when he suffered from deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This condition resulted in a small clot in his leg traveling to his brain. When the clot reached his brain, Mr. Louie suffered a major stoke that left him disabled. After the stroke, Mr. Louie was left paralyzed on one side of his body. He also suffers from aphasia and muscle spasms. Mr. Louie’s DVT was determined to be related to air travel.

plane.jpgAfter suffering the stroke, Mr. Louie filed for workers’ compensation benefits. At first, BP claimed that Mr. Louie’s injuries were not work-related. Eventually BP agreed to pay temporary total disability (TTD) at a rate of $700 per week. Mr. Louie continued to fight for additional compensation for his on-the-job injuries, and the parties eventually entered into a partial compromise and release (C&R) agreement. A C&R agreement is basically a workers’ compensation settlement agreement. In North Carolina, the state Industrial Commission has outlined procedures pertaining to C&R agreements.

In Louie, the matter was complicated because the state legislature had recently amended the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act. Under the old law, there was a maximum compensation rate of $700 per week. This was what Mr. Louie was receiving under his TTD rating. Under the amended statute, a variable rate index was created that tied workers’ compensation benefits to a statewide average of weekly earnings. The amount of money that Mr. Louie could receive as compensation turned on which version of the statute controlled his case. Under the new version of the Workers’ Compensation Act, Louie wanted his benefits tied not only to his earnings before the accident, but what he likely would have earned if was able to remain on the job. Louie had witness testimony that if the accident never happened and Louie progressed with the company as he had in the past, he would eventually be earning $300,000 in salary, including bonuses and other compensation. Essentially, his disability not only caused Louie to lose the ability to earn his current salary, but it prevented him from progressing to a more lucrative position with the company–a path he had been on before suffering a workplace injury. In the end, the court determined that state laws in effect at the time of injury should be applied when calculating workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ compensations cases like the one discussed above involve a litany of complex legal arguments. The bottom line is that the employer and/or the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company are often more concerned with their own bottom line than whether an injured employee is adequately compensated for his or her losses.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Richard Louie v. BP Exploration (Alaska), Inc., and Ace USA, Alaska Supreme Court, June 13, 2014

More Blog Entries:

What to Do After a Work Accident in North Carolina, January 12, 2014, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog

Contact Information