BEFORE WALKER, PRATHER, SULLIVAN AND SUGG
PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
The subject of this appeal is whether the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers' Compensation Act bars an action by an injured worker against the carrier, predicated upon the carrier's intentional refusal to pay workers' compensation medical and weekly compensation benefits notwithstanding an admitted residual permanent disability.
Plaintiff Clara J. Holland *fn1 (Holland) filed her complaint in the Circuit Court of Greene County seeking damages from the defendant, Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (Farm Bureau), for tortious breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties and intentional infliction of mental distress based upon the defendant's refusal to pay workers' compensation benefits. Farm Bureau is the workers' compensation insurance carrier for Mrs. Holland's employer; however, this suit does not join the employer as it alleges an independent tort committed by the carrier outside of the scope of plaintiff's employment.
Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that, under the exclusiveness of remedies provision of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act, jurisdiction over the matter was vested exclusively in the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission. The Circuit Court, Darwin M. Maples presiding, overruled the motion. The court then granted defendant's motion for an interlocutory appeal to this Court on the dispositive issue of the application of the exclusivity of remedies provision of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act to a workers' compensation insurance carrier.
On October 6, 1977, Ms. Holland, a meat wrapper at the K & B Slaughter House, suffered a back injury while lifting a 50 pound tray of meat. As a result of the injury, Ms. Holland underwent back surgery in December of 1977.
The carrier paid Ms. Holland's medical bills and temporary total benefits until July 26, 1979, when it
terminated her benefits on medical advice. This interlocutory appeal on motion to dismiss does not develop any facts relating to the termination procedure by the carrier. Following an order of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission of September 8, 1981, the carrier resumed payment of temporary total disability benefits to Ms. Holland. This suit was then filed.
Ms. Holland alleges that the intentional refusal of the insurance carrier to pay workers' compensation benefits was calculated to force her into an inadequate settlement of her claim and constituted a tortious breach of contract, a breach of fiduciary duties and the intentional infliction of mental distress, for which she seeks compensatory ($1,000,000) and punitive ($5,000,000) damages.
The sole issue presented by this appeal is whether the exclusive remedy clause of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act bars a claimant, who has sustained an injury covered by the Act, from maintaining an action against the insurance carrier for the commission of intentional torts in the processing of a worker's compensation claim.
The exclusive remedy provision of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act provides that" the liability of an employer to pay compensation shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability of such employer to the employee . . . on account of such injury or death, . . . . "Miss. Code Ann. 71-3-9 (1972).
Subsequent to the initiation of the present appeal, this Court, in Taylor v. U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty Co., 420 So.2d 564 (Miss. 1982), held that section 71-3-9 barred a common law tort action by an employee against the compensation carrier based upon the negligent failure to pay workers' compensation benefits by the carrier. Farm Bureau contends that Taylor disposes of the present appeal. Appellee Holland, on the other hand, argues that the immunity granted to the carrier in Taylor ...