United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
JOHN R. BUTLER and STEPHANIE BUTLER PLAINTIFFS
MUELLER COPPER TUBE COMPANY, INC., NEW HAMPSHIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., AND SEDGWICK CLAIMS MANAGEMENT SERVICE DEFENDANTS
A. SANDERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter arises on competing motions for summary judgment.
After considering the matter, the court finds as follows:
and Procedural History
seek to recover damages for alleged bad faith handling of
John Butler's workers' compensation claim, which
arose on the afternoon of August 22, 2013, when he suffered a
crush injury to his right foot during the course and scope of
his employment with Mueller Copper Tube Company, Inc. Butler
had his right leg amputated below the knee on October 10,
2013. On August 22, 2014, he filed a petition to controvert
his workers' compensation claim. Following two years of
litigation before the Mississippi Workers' Compensation
Commission (“MWCC”), the parties agreed to settle
the indemnity, or wage, portion of his claim, while keeping
the medical portion open.
time of his injury, Mueller had workers' compensation
insurance through New Hampshire Insurance Company
(“NHI”). Mueller also had a service agreement
with Sedgwick Claims Management Service to act as a
third-party administrator of Butler's claim. Butler
exhausted his administrative remedies before the MWCC, which
compelled the employer and carrier to provide certain medical
and indemnity benefits, and filed this action for bad faith
delay of benefits.
seek partial summary judgment on the issues of delay and
vicarious liability. Defendants seek summary judgment on all
claims and complete dismissal with prejudice.
judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine
dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
The Rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
moving party “bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must
then “go beyond the pleadings” and
“designate ‘specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324
(citations omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual
controversies are to be resolved in favor of the non-movant,
“but only when . . . both parties have submitted
evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid
Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc).
When such contradictory facts exist, the Court may “not
make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.”
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S.
133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Conclusory
allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and
legalistic arguments are not an adequate substitute for
specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG
Ins. Co. v. Sedgewick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759
(5th Cir. 2002); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097
(5th Cir. 1997); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act is the exclusive
remedy available to an injured worker in the state of
Mississippi. Miller v. McRae's Inc., 444 So.2d
368, 370 (Miss. 1984). See also Miss. Code Ann.
§ 71-3-9 (“The liability of an employer to pay
compensation shall be exclusive and in place of all other
liability of such employer to the employee, his legal
representative, husband or wife, parents, dependents,
next-of-kin, and anyone otherwise entitled to recover damages
at common law or otherwise from such employer on account of
such injury or death[.]”). However, “an employee
entitled to worker's compensation benefits from her
employer has a separate and independent right to recover
damages from the employer's worker's compensation
insurer because of the insurer's intentional bad-faith
refusal to pay compensation when due, which constitutes an
independent intentional tort committed by the insurer outside
the scope of the worker's employment.” Williams
v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 741 F.3d 617, 621 (5th Cir.
2014) (citing Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Ins. Co. v.
Holland, 469 So.2d 55, 56-59 (Miss. 1984)).
Holland was extended “to allow bad-faith
refusal action against employers as well as insurance
carriers.” Id. at 622 (citing Luckett v.
Miss. Wood Inc., 481 So.2d 288, 290 (Miss.1985)).
To prove his claim against the employer, the employee would
have to show, as he would to prove a claim against the
carrier, that there has been “(1) an intentional
refusal by the employer to pay with reasonable promptness the
insured's claim; and, (2) the absence of any arguable
reason for the defendant's refusal to pay with reasonable
Toney v. Lowery Woodyards and Employer's Ins. Of
Wausau, 278 F.Supp.2d 786, 794 (S.D.Miss. 2003). The
standard is the same for a claim based on delay of benefits.
See Bullocks v. Gottfried Corp., 403 Fed.Appx. 947,
950 (5th Cir. 2010).
Sedgwick argue that any unreasonable delay in benefits was
caused by Plaintiffs' tardiness in submitting
documentation or due to the attorney who defended the
underlying workers' compensation claim, David
McLaurin. Mueller seconds these arguments and also
argues that it fulfilled its statutory duty by securing
workers' compensation coverage and that it did not
actively participate in the administration of the claim.
Plaintiffs seek to impose liability on the defendants through
a theory of vicarious liability, arguing that McLaurin acted
as Defendants' agent and therefore his actions should be
imputed to them. They further argue that ...