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Employer Still on the Hook for Helicopter Fall

(CN) - A Louisiana man who fell out of helicopter while shooting deer with a net gun in Mexico can sue the company that "borrowed" him for the job.

Tommy Hebert's boss at Industrial Helicopters, J. Oran Richard, also owned Game Management, which leased land for deer capturing in Mexico.

Hebert was sitting in the back of the helicopter on a plywood box. As he aimed at a deer with his net gun, the helicopter banked, and Hebert fell out.

Hebert, who weighed between 250 and 275 pounds, suffered multiple fractures. He sued Richard; the helicopter pilot, Richard's son Mike; the two companies Richard owned; and Allianz Global Risks U.S. Insurance Co.

Hebert alleged that he only worked for Industrial, so his Game Management activities were not covered by workers' compensation insurance.

He also cited a similar injury by an Industrial employee. The trial court disagreed and ruled in the defendants' favor.

Hebert fared better on appeal in Louisiana's Third Circuit. A five-judge panel held that Hebert could not proceed in his suit against Industrial but can pursue the case against Game Management, because that company did not pay him.

"Neither Industrial nor GMI produced documentation to prove that Tommie Hebert or anyone else was ever paid by any entity to do deer netting in Mexico," Judge J. David Painter wrote, reversing the lower court's summary judgment.

Hebert can continue his suit on employment status-tort immunity and spoliation of evidence.

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