Emerson v. Willis Knighton Med. Ctr., 52,216-WCA

CourtCourt of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
Citation257 So.3d 243
Docket NumberNo. 52,216-WCA,52,216-WCA
Parties Diedra EMERSON, Plaintiff-Appellant v. WILLIS KNIGHTON MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant-Appellee
Decision Date26 September 2018

257 So.3d 243

Diedra EMERSON, Plaintiff-Appellant

No. 52,216-WCA

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit.

Judgment rendered September 26, 2018
Rehearing Denied November 8, 2018

DIEDRA EMERSON, Appellant In Proper Person

LUNN, IRION, SALLEY, CARLISLE & GARDNER, By: Walter S. Salley, Counsel for Appellee



In this Worker's Compensation case, the pro se appellant is Diedre Emerson ("Emerson" or the "plaintiff"), a former certified nurse assistant ("CNA") employed by Willis Knighton Health System ("Willis Knighton"). Emerson filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation describing her injury as follows: "Mental, Distress – Hyperventilation – Stroke like symptoms." The alleged injury occurred on October 1, 2016. After trial on the merits, the Worker's Compensation Judge ("WCJ") denied compensation on the grounds that Emerson failed to carry her burden of proof. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm.


The parties stipulated that Emerson was an employee of Willis Knighton at the time of the alleged injury. Initially, she was a full-time employee, but later changed to part-time work to facilitate her going to nursing school. Her work schedule on the weekend in question was 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. on three consecutive nights – Friday, September 30, 2016, through Sunday, October 2, 2016. She worked on the cancer floor at Willis Knighton, which had a maximum capacity of 40 patients.

257 So.3d 245

When Emerson arrived at work that Friday evening, she found that the prior shift had left much of their work undone, which would require her to do extra work. Specifically, she stated it was her responsibility to record the patients' vital signs upon arriving for work, but she could not because the patients were all "hollering for water." Additionally, the previous shift had left the lunch trays in the patients' rooms, and had not given the patients ice. She further testified that she could not get any of the nurses to help because they were all busy as well. Emerson also admitted that the situation was just more of the "same old, same old" thing, and that the day shift left their work for the night shift "numerous" times.1

Upon learning that she would be responsible for the work allegedly leftover from the previous shift in addition to her immediate duty of taking vital signs of all the patients, she became "so upset... so upset...so mad." While she was taking vital signs, distributing ice, and helping patients to the bathroom, she felt "something loose-like, pop-like" in her head. Emerson admitted that "nothing happened physically" to cause the "pop" in her head.2

After the "pop," Emerson "broke down and started crying." She did not feel pain, but felt "out of [her] body," light-headed, anxious, and as if she could not think. Emerson was with the charge nurse when this occurred, and the charge nurse summoned the house supervisor, who talked with Emerson and then reassigned her to a different floor for the night.

After her shift ended the morning of Saturday, October 1, 2016, Emerson went to the park and sat for a while in the hope that she would feel better by calming down. Once Emerson determined sitting in the park did not make her feel better, she went to the LSU Medical Center emergency room. She testified that, in the emergency room, she was still crying uncontrollably and reported having weakness in her left side. The medical records from that visit do not indicate that she complained of weakness on her left side.3 They indicate that her "chief complaint" was "nervousness" and "hyperventilation," and that she had difficulty sleeping as well as elevated blood pressure. Dr. Gregory Patek diagnosed Emerson with anxiety and "stress at work."4 He prescribed her Atarax and naproxen, and excused her from work until October 3, 2016.

257 So.3d 246

Willis Knighton requires that employees who cannot work their shift give notice thereof a certain number of hours in advance. Emerson was allegedly tardy in calling Willis Knighton to give notice that she would miss one of her remaining shifts that weekend. She was, for that reason, fired on Monday, October 3, 2016.

Emerson also testified that she returned to the LSU Medical Center emergency room on November 29, 2016 – approximately two months after the incident for which she seeks workers' compensation. She was then diagnosed with a stroke and a blockage in her right carotid artery. Emerson testified that it is undetermined whether the blockage is from a blood clot or from plaque buildup.5

The medical records from this visit contain the following narrative:

Diedre Emerson is a 50-year-old female with no significant medical history, presented with new onset of left-sided weakness since 11:00 AM today. She arrived at least 7 h after the onset of her symptoms. Patient c/o LUE and LLE weakness, inability to ambulate, report symptoms started after argument on the phone with family followed by panic attack. Symptoms are not improving. Patient reports similar event in October of current year and lasted for about one week, followed by complete resolution. Patient was told that she has HTN during her last PCP visit last year, she is currently not on treatment. She denies headache, vision changes, dizziness, LOC, chest pain or SOB. Neurology was consulted for possible CVA/TIA evaluation.

These records also reflect "Admission Diagnoses" of CVA (cerebral vascular accident); left-sided weakness; transient cerebral ischemia, unspecified type; as well as "Discharge Diagnoses" of right MCA territory stroke, and ANA positive. Her medical records from November 29, 2016, also indicate a "right ICA total occlusion per U/S carotid."

The WCJ denied Emerson's claims on the ground that Emerson failed to carry her burden of proof in that: (1) Emerson did not prove that she had an injury under section 1021(8)(a); (2) Emerson did not prove that her mental injury was caused by sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary stress related to the employment or that she was diagnosed with a mental injury by a psychiatrist or psychologist; and (3) even if Emerson did suffer a perivascular injury on October 1, 2016, she failed to prove that it was predominantly caused by work-related stress as opposed to a preexisting condition. Emerson admits that she has not consulted a psychologist or psychiatrist regarding the "injury" for which she now claims compensation.

In this appeal, Emerson, who is not represented...

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1 cases
  • Berry v. Anco Insulations
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • May 22, 2019
    ...Lomont v. Bennett , 2014-2483 (La. 6/30/15), 172 So.3d 620 ; Emerson v. Willis Knighton Med. Ctr. , 52,216 (La. App. 2 Cir. 9/26/18), 257 So.3d 243. Notably, the appellate court will avoid making "its choice of the evidence," and instead will look for clear error in the reasonable basis fou......

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