The issues presented herein are: (1) whether LSA-R.S. 23:1102 C(1) as amended by Acts 1984, No. 852, § 1, which requires a tortfeasor or its insurer to automatically reimburse the total amount of worker's compensation paid when an employer or its insurer fails to approve a compromise between the employee and tortfeasor, is constitutional and (2) whether LSA-R.S. 23:1102 C(1) applies to defendants herein since the statute refers to "third party defendant[s]."
Plaintiff, Christine Grimmer, filed suit against several defendants for damages resulting from injuries received in an automobile accident when her vehicle struck a cow, allegedly owned by one of the defendants. Subsequently, plaintiff dismissed all defendants except for Victor Debatez and his insurer, Louisiana Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (La. Farm Bureau), who answered, admitting that Mr. Debatez owned the cow but denying liability.
On the day this case was scheduled for jury trial, Grimmer, Debatez and La. Farm Bureau entered into a settlement agreement; American refused to approve it. The parties then informed the trial court of the compromise. American claimed that since the compromise was made without its
Subsequently, American filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging there was no genuine issue of fact and that on the basis of LSA-R.S. 23:1102 C(1), it was entitled to judgment for the total amount of compensation and medical benefits paid to Grimmer. At the hearing on the motion, Debatez and La. Farm Bureau agreed that the facts were not in dispute, and reasserted its argument that the statute violated due process. The trial court granted defendants' motion and rendered judgment in favor of American. Defendants appeal.
LSA-R.S. 23:1101 provides for the right of an employee to sue a "third person" and recover sums for which the third person is liable. It further provides that any person having paid or having become obligated to pay worker's compensation may sue the third person to recover those sums. LSA-R.S. 23:1101 provides in its entirety:
LSA-R.S. 23:1102C(1) applies to situations such as in this case where (1) the employee has filed a tort suit against a tortfeasor, (2) the employer or his insurer has intervened, (3) there has been a compromise between the employee and the
Defendants contend that LSA-R.S. 23:1102C(1) is unconstitutional because it deprives them of their property without due process of law under both the Louisiana Constitution, Article I § 2 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. They argue that the statute violates due process by denying them a hearing on the merits of the employer's claim simply because they settled with the employee.
Article I § 2 of the Louisiana Constitution provides:
The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution also prohibits any state from depriving any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.
A statute is presumed to be constitutional and the party attacking the validity has the burden of proving its unconstitutionality. Theriot v. Terrebonne Parish Police Jury, 436 So.2d 515 (La.1983); Ancor v. Belden Concrete Products, Inc., 260 La. 372, 256 So.2d 122 (La.1971). Any doubt must be resolved in favor of constitutionality. Ancor, supra.
Procedural due process requires that all proceedings directed toward the deprivation of life, liberty or property be conducted in a manner consistent with essential fairness. Among the requirements are notice of the proceeding and a fair opportunity to defend or present objections. See, Hannah v. Larche, 363 U.S. 420, 80 S.Ct. 1502, 4 L.Ed.2d 1307 (1960); Babineaux v. Judiciary Commission, 341 So.2d 396 (La. 1976); Saizan v. Saizan, 311 So.2d 281 (La. 1st Cir.1974). Nor are the states prevented by the United States Constitution from determining by what process legal rights may be asserted or legal obligations enforced, provided that due notice is given and there is an opportunity to be heard. No one has a vested right in any given mode of procedure. Gelfert v. National City Bank, 313 U.S. 221, 61 S.Ct. 898, 85 L.Ed. 1299 (1941); Wall v. Close, 201 La. 986, 10 So.2d 779 (La.1942).
Furthermore, laws must be construed as a whole and each part must be given effect where such a result can be reasonably achieved. Pickering v. City of Baton Rouge, 442 So.2d 522 (La.App. 1st Cir. 1983). All parts of a statute must be read together and each provision must be considered in context with other provisions and should be construed in harmony with the whole. Quick Finance Service, Inc. v. Youngblood, 320 So.2d 239 (La.App. 4th Cir.1975).
LSA-R.S. 23:1102C(1) as applied herein merely removed from defendants the option of compromising with the employee without the insurer's approval and having a full trial on the merits at that point. The law construed as a whole does not deny them a hearing or opportunity to defend, thus it does not deny due process.
Defendants also argue that LSA-R. S. 23:1102 is inapplicable to them because, by its express terms, it involves suits filed against a third party defendant.
The meaning and intent of a law is to be determined by a consideration of the law in its entirety and all other laws on the same subject matter. A construction should be placed on the provision in question which is consistent with the obvious intent of the lawmaker. Bunch v. Town of St. Francisville, 446 So.2d 1357 (La.App. 1st Cir.1984).
LSA-R.S. 23:1101 authorizes suits against a third person who has a legal liability to pay damages for an injury or compensable sickness or disease. Although poorly drafted, it is clear that the provisions of LSA-R.S. 23:1101, et seq., refer to the tortfeasor, a third person outside the employment enterprise whose conduct causes harm. The use of the phrase "third party defendant" to describe the tortfeasor has been criticized in 14 H. Johnson, III, Louisiana Civil Law Treatise, Worker's Compensation Law and Practice § 373 (Supp.1988), as follows:
We find defendant's argument on this issue lacks merit.
For the above reasons, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed. The trial court's judgment granting the intervenor's motion for summary judgment was proper. Appellants are to pay costs.