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Brady v. Travelers Indemnity Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

February 25, 2014

BRENDA BRADY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE TRAVELERS INDEMNITY COMPANY and ON ASSIGNMENT STAFFING SERVICES, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [17] of the Defendants The Travelers Indemnity Company ("Travelers") and On Assignment Staffing Services, Inc. ("On Assignment"). Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

This is a suit for bad faith denial of workers' compensation benefits brought by Brenda Brady against her former employer, On Assignment, and its insurer, Travelers. On or about April 3, 2007, Brady sustained certain injuries when she slipped and fell while working in the course and scope of her employment with On Assignment. Brady subsequently asserted a workers' compensation claim against On Assignment and Travelers for her injuries arising out of the accident. In March of 2012, Brady settled her workers' compensation claim against On Assignment and Travelers. The settlement was effected through a Release [17-2] executed by Brady on March 21, 2012, and an Order Approving Final Compromise Settlement and Dismissing Claim with Prejudice [17-1] entered by the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission ("MWCC") on March 26, 2012.

On October 24, 2012, Brady filed suit against On Assignment and Travelers in the Circuit Court of Lamar County, Mississippi. ( See Compl. [17-5].) The Complaint alleges that Brady suffered injury as a result of Travelers' failure to authorize diagnostic exams and failure to approve medical treatment. The Complaint further asserts that the Defendants' willful refusal to provide timely compensation benefits without any legitimate basis for the refusal and willful use of the parties' unequal bargaining positions to force the Plaintiff to accept an inadequate settlement constitute independent torts not subject to the exclusivity provision of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act (the "Act").

On December 26, 2012, Travelers removed the proceeding to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship jurisdiction under Title 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332. ( See Notice of Removal [1].) On February 12, 2013, Brady filed an Amended Complaint [5], correcting a misnomer as to the name of On Assignment.

On August 26, 2013, the Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment [17]. The Defendants contend that summary judgment is due in their favor because the MWCC Order and Release each released and discharged all of Brady's claims arising out of her work accident, including the bad faith claim asserted in this lawsuit. Brady contends that she only released her workers' compensation claim against the Defendants. The Court has fully considered the parties' positions and is ready to rule.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Initially, the movant has "the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Cannata v. Catholic Diocese of Austin, 700 F.3d 169, 172 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). If the movant meets this burden, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and point out specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Id. "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.'" Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010) (quoting Daniels v. City of Arlington, Tex., 246 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2001)). "An issue is genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists, "the court must view the facts and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, "[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).

B. Analysis

1. Whether Brady's Bad Faith Claim Was Discharged by the MWCC Order [17-1]

The Court first addresses the Defendants' argument that the MWCC Order "completely discharges Brady's claims against On Assignment and Travelers in this action." (Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for SJ [18] at p. 3.) The Defendants quote the ...


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