United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
DANNY J. STARLING, JANICE STARLING PLAINTIFFS
CRAWFORD & COMPANY, et al. DEFENDANTS
before this Court is Plaintiffs Danny and Janice
Starling's Motion for Reconsideration . Having
considered the matter, the Court finds the motion should be
Starling receives workers' compensation benefits as a
result of an on-the-job back injury he suffered in 1999.
Defendants are claims administrators for the workers'
compensation carrier of Starling's former employer.
years since, Danny has received treatments to manage the pain
associated with the injury. In 2016 a doctor recommended
Danny receive a back surgery, and Danny informed Defendants
of the doctors' recommendation. Defendants referred Danny
to another physician, who determined that the back pain Danny
was now suffering was not related to his original back
injury. Defendants denied authorization for the surgery and
notified Danny that they were closing the medical management
portion of his claim.
Starlings brought this suit against Defendants alleging that
they denied and delayed authorization for the surgery and
other pain management treatments he was entitled to in bad
faith. This Court dismissed those claims. The
Starlings now move the Court to reconsider.
to Reconsider Standard under Rule 59(e)
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not provide for a
motion for reconsideration, such a motion may be considered
either a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend judgment or a
Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment or order."
Shepherd v. Int'l Paper Co., 372 F.3d 326, 328
n.l (5th Cir. 2004). Because the motion before this Court was
filed within 28 days of the Court's order, the Court will
treat the motion as a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend
judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59. A Rule 59 motion
is the proper vehicle by which a party can "correct
manifest errors of law or fact" or "present newly
discovered evidence." Templet v. HydroChem
Inc., 367 F.3d 473, 479 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Waltman v. Int'l Paper Co., 875 F.2d 468, 473
(5th Cir. 1989)). A party should not attempt to use the Rule
59 motion for the purpose of "rehashing evidence, legal
theories, or arguments that could have been offered or raised
before the entry of judgment." Templet, 367
F.3d at 479, (citing Simon v. U.S., 81 F.2d 1154,
1159 (5th Cir. 1990)).
Starlings presented two separate bases for their bad faith
claims. First, they alleged that Defendants denied a back
surgery Danny sought in bad faith, and second, they alleged
that Defendants delayed authorization for medications and
injections for his back pain in bad faith.
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 under the Act.
Southern Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. v. Holland, 469,
So.2d 55 58-59 (Miss. 1984). To establish a bad faith denial
of benefits, the plaintiff must show: (1) a contract of
workers' compensation insurance existed between the
defendant and the plaintiffs employer; (2) the carrier denied
the plaintiffs compensable workers' compensation claim
without a legitimate or arguable reason; and (3) the denial
of benefits constitutes a willful and intentional or
malicious wrong. Rogers v. Hartford Ace. & Indem.
Co., 133 F.3d 309, 312 (5th Cir. 1998) (citing
Holland, 469 So.2d at 58-59).
Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission has
"exclusive jurisdiction to determine in the first
instance whether the claimant is entitled to such
benefits." Hardaway v. Howard Indus., Inc., 211
So.3d 718, 722 (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). Thus, a plaintiff must
exhaust his administrative remedies with the Commission and
receive a determination that he is entitled to those benefits
before proceeding on a bad faith claim. Walls v. Franklin
Corp., 797 So.2d 973, 977 (Miss. 2001)
("[E]xhaustion of the administrative remedial process is
a mandatory condition precedent to the maintaining of a
"bad faith" suit for an allegedly wrongful denial
of any workers' compensation benefits.").
Starling admits that he did not obtain a determination from
the Commission that either the back surgery or the
medications and injections he was requesting were
compensable; that is, whether they were medically necessary
to treat injuries and pain associated with his original back
injury. The Starlings conceded that this precluded the bad
faith denial claim for the back surgery he sought. They
argued, however, that their other bad faith claims-the claims
for the delay in authorizing medication and injections-could
proceed because it was not necessary to obtain a final
determination from the Commission in a delay claim. The Court
disagreed and dismissed their claims.
Starlings, in the present motion, attempt to reassert that
bad faith delay claims are not precluded by a plaintiffs
failure to obtain a determination from the Commission. In
support, they cite another case from this district in which
the court allowed a bad faith delay claim to proceed even
though the plaintiffs had not received a final determination.
Smith v. Union Ins. Co., No. 3:15-CV-00162-MPM-RP,
2017 WL 2465022 (N.D. Miss. June 6, 2017). Thus, they argue,
this Court made a manifest error in law by determining the
such administrative exhaustion was required.
respect, because this is a matter of state law, the Court
finds much more persuasive the opinion of the Mississippi
Court of Appeals in Hardaway v. Howard Indus., Inc.,
211 So.3d 718 (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). In Hardaway,
two employees who suffered work-related injuries filed
compensation claims with the Commission. Before the
Commission had issued a final determination, the employees
filed bad faith claims against their employer and its
insurance carrier. Id. at 720. Importantly, one
employees' claim was based not on the defendants'
failure to pay benefits at all, ...