louisiana 890549 640

What Do You Think: Could Traveling Oilfield Surveyor Get Benefits for COVID-19 Infection?

09 Apr, 2024 Chris Parker

louisiana 890549 640

Iowa, LA (WorkersCompensation.com) – In Louisiana, it’s uncertain whether a person who contracts COVID-19 at work has an occupational disease. Generally, to constitute an occupational disease, a condition must be peculiar to the person’s job. So, does the fact that an employee has to travel a lot and stay in hotels make infection peculiar to the job, especially when the virus is rampant?

A case involving a surveyor for an oil field company addresses that question. The employee in that case often traveled out of state as part of his job. In 2020, the company sent him to work in Texas, and had him stay at a Comfort Inn. When traveling, the surveyor was on call 24 hours a day. 

While in Texas, the surveyor became sick and was diagnosed with COVID-19. He didn’t know exactly when or where he picked it up and he could not identify any infected coworkers who might have given it to him. He spent several weeks in critical care, and, as a result of the condition, was unable to return to work.

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The surveyor filed a workers’ compensation claim based on an occupational disease. The company asked the court to dismiss the case. The surveyor, it argued, didn’t establish that his COVID infection was an occupational disease under Louisiana law.

The court explained that in Louisiana, an occupational disease means a disease or illness which is due to causes and conditions characteristic of and peculiar to the particular trade, occupation, process, or employment in which the employee is exposed to such disease.

Was the surveyor’s COVID-19 infection an occupational disease?
A. No. He could not specifically link his condition to something that was characteristic of or specific to his job.
B. Yes. He was infected when he was out of town working for his employer and continually on call.

If you selected A, you agreed with the court in Kibodeaux v. Jan’s Construction, Inc., No. 23-454 (La. Ct. App. 04/03/24), which held that the surveyor failed to establish that his injury was compensable.

The court pointed out that there is no evidence that COVID-19 is peculiar to the job of an outdoor oilfield surveyor. Further, in this case, there was nothing about COVID-19 exposure that was particular to or peculiar to the claimant’s job. “On the contrary, the ubiquity of this virus precludes us from such a finding,” the court wrote.

In addition, even if COVID-19 could be found to be an occupational disease in certain cases, the court remarked, this was not such a case. Here, the claimant did not know where or from whom he caught the virus. 

Because the surveyor could not show that his COVID-19 infection met the definition of an occupational disease, the court dismissed his lawsuit.

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