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Starling v. Crawford & Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

April 27, 2018

DANNY J. STARLING AND JANICE STARLING PLAINTIFFS
v.
CRAWFORD & COMPANY, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         In this matter, Plaintiff Danny Starling Defendants Crawford & Company ("Crawford") and Broadspire Services, Inc.'s ("Broadspire") for denying his workers' compensation benefits claims in bad faith. Crawford and Broadspire have filed a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction [43]. Having considered the matter, the Court finds the motion should be granted.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         In 1999, Starling injured his back while on the job with his employer, Burlington House Fabrics. Compl. ¶ 19. The Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission found him permanently and totally disabled and ordered Burlington and its workers' compensation carrier, Reliance National Indemnity Co., to provide Starling with disability payments for a period of 450 weeks, and payments for medical services and supplies to treat his injury as necessary. Id. ¶ 20; Danny I Starling vs. Burlington House Fabrics, No. 00 10023-G-9111, 2002 WL 31007477, at *5-6 (Miss. Work. Comp. Com. Aug. 13, 2002). Reliance utilized Defendant Crawford and Crawford's affiliate, Defendant Broadspire, for claims administration. Compl. ¶ 19.

         In August 2002, Starling received a spinal fusion surgery from Dr. Glenn Crosby. He followed up that surgery with Dr. George Hammitt for pain management. Id. ¶ 22. Dr. Hammitt provided Starling with nerve block injections to alleviate the pain for periods of time. Id. In March 2016, Dr. Crosby advised Starling that he needed a revision of the original fusion surgery. Dr. Crosby, could not perform the revision, however, because he no longer accepted workers' compensation insurance. Id.

         Starling informed Broadspire that Dr. Crosby had recommended another surgery, and Broadspire referred Starling to Dr. Feeidoon Parsioon for an independent medical exam. Id. Dr. Parsioon determined that the back pain that Starling was currently suffering was degenerative- that is, it was caused by general wear and tear of the spinal disks- and not related to his injury or prior surgery. Id. at ¶ at 23. Therefore, he found that no further nerve block injections or surgical intervention was medically necessary. Id. Instead, Dr. Parsioon recommended Starling be implanted with a pain pump. Id.

         Afterwards, Starling was notified that he would not be approved for any further nerve block injections or for the surgery. He was further notified by Broadspire that the medical management portion of his claim would be closed. Id. ¶¶ 24, 26.

         Starling then brought this present suit in state court against numerous defendants[1] alleging they had all conspired to deny him his workers' compensation benefits in bad faith. Defendants timely removed to this Court. Starling subsequently dismissed all but Crawford and Broadspire. Those defendants now move to dismiss the complaint. Starling has responded, and the matter is now ripe for review.

         12(b)(1) Motion Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion allows a party to challenge the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. " '[A] factual attack under Rule 12(b)(1) may occur at any stage of the proceedings, and plaintiff bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.' " Arena v. Graybar Elec. Co., 669 F.3d 214, 223 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit. Corp., 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir. 1980) (citations omitted)).

         The Fifth Circuit has instructed:

A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case. In considering a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the district court is free to weigh the evidence and resolve factual disputes in order to satisfy itself that it has the power to hear the case. Thus, under Rule 12(b)(1), the district court can resolve disputed issues of fact to the extent necessary to determine jurisdiction[.]

Smith v. Reg'l Transit Autk, 756 F.3d 340, 347 (5th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the Court can consider: "(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Tsolmon v. United States, 841 F.3d 378, 382 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Discussion

         Statutory compensation under the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act is the exclusively remedy for employees injured on the job. Miss. Code Ann. § 71-9-3. Mississippi law recognizes that a bad faith tort claim, independent from the work-related injury, accrues where an employer or insurer refuses to pay for benefits as required ...


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