Arnold & Placek, P.C. wins summary judgment and affirmance on appeal in wrongful death case applying doctrine of issue preclusion.

Written by A&P News on February 1st, 2018. Posted in Appeals, Employer's Liability

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas today affirmed summary judgment for an employer that was the defendant in a wrongful death suit arising from a tank explosion. The decease employee was not formally married, but two women each claimed to be his common-law spouse and filed claims for workers’ compensation death benefits. The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation held a hearing and determined that no common-law marriage existed. One of the women then filed a wrongful death suit against the employer seeking punitive damages as the surviving spouse. The trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, which the court of appeals affirmed, because the same issue that was dispositive of plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim—that no common-law marriage existed—was also dispositive of plaintiff’s standing to sue for wrongful death as the surviving spouse. The court of appeals also affirmed summary judgment on the “survival claim” that plaintiff brought as the administrator of the estate, because workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for any compensable death, and a survival claim is nothing more than the deceased employee’s claim for personal injury damages.

This is the first case in Texas applying the doctrine of issue preclusion (collateral estoppel) to a final decision by the Division of Workers’ Compensation on the question of whether a common-law marriage existed prior to an employee’s death. The case is In re Estate of Howard, No. 14-16-00676-CV, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 1, 2018).

Arnold & Placek, P.C. partners Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster represented the employer in the trial court and in the court of appeals.

Arnold & Placek Wins Death Benefits Case on Summary Judgment, Appeal

Written by A&P News on November 7th, 2017. Posted in Appeals, Judicial Review, News

After the foreman for a San Angelo electrical contractor was killed in an auto accident on his way to work, his widow sought workers’ compensation death benefits from Texas Mutual Insurance Company. Texas Mutual disputed the claim and prevailed at the Division of Workers’ Compensation. His widow appealed the decision to the District Court of Sutton County where Texas Mutual was represented by Arnold & Placek, P.C. After discovery was completed, Matthew Foerster successfully obtained a summary judgment (and defeated the widow’s cross-motion) determining that the foreman was not in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The widow then appealed again to the San Antonio Court of Appeals. On November 1, 2017, the San Antonio Court of Appeals issued a memorandum opinion affirming the summary judgment in favor of Texas Mutual. Throughout the judicial review and appellate process, Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster.

Arnold & Placek obtains mandamus relief directing district court to dismiss employer’s coverage suit against Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

Written by A&P News on August 15th, 2015. Posted in Appeals

Ninth Court of Appeals, Texas

When an injury occurs during an alleged gap between two workers’ compensation insurance policies, the Division of Workers’ Compensation has exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether a carrier must pay benefits or reimburse the employer for medical expenses incurred in connection with the injury. That was the opinion of the Beaumont Court of Appeals on Texas Mutual Insurance Company’s petition for writ of mandamus, after the district court abused its discretion in denying Texas Mutual’s motion to dismiss a coverage lawsuit brought by the employer. The per curiam opinion was the first appellate decision applying the Texas Supreme Court’s seminal holding in In re Crawford & Company that the Workers’ Compensation Act’s process and remedies for disputes over benefits or the “investigation, handling or settlement of a claim” are “exclusive” of all other remedies. Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster at both the district and appellate levels. The petition for writ of mandamus was conditionally granted without oral argument.

In re Texas Mutual Ins. Co., No. 09-15-00265-CV, 2015 WL 4760174 (Tex. App.—Beaumont Aug. 13, 2015, orig. proceeding).

Texas Supreme Court Upholds Eastland Mandamus

Written by A&P News on April 13th, 2012. Posted in Appeals, Judicial Review

The Texas Supreme Court today denied the Motion for Rehearing of Amerimex Drilling I, Ltd. in its request for mandamus review of the Eastland Court of Appeals decision in In re Texas Mutual Ins. Co.. In 2010, the Eastland Court of Appeals granted the petition for writ of mandamus filed by Arnold & Placek on behalf of Texas Mutual, holding that employers do not have a general right of standing to intervene in judicial review suits by their employees. The Eastland Court held that standing in a workers’ compensation suit must have a statutory basis. Accordingly, the Eastland court instructed the trial judge to dismiss Amerimex’s petition in intervention.

Amerimex then filed a petition for writ of mandamus asking the Supreme Court to reinstate their suit. The Supreme Court denied the petition on September 30, 2011, and denied the motion for rehearing today. Texas Mutual was represented by Scott Placek and Scott Arnold of Arnold & Placek, and by the firm of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon and Moody.

Arnold & Placek, P.C. Secures Another Dismissal on Mandamus

Written by A&P News on November 12th, 2010. Posted in Appeals, Judicial Review

11th Court of Appeals, Eastland, Texas

In an opinion handed down earlier today, the Eastland Court of Appeals granted the Petition for Writ of Mandamus filed by Arnold & Placek on behalf of its client, Texas Mutual Insurance Company. The case, In re Texas Mutual Ins. Co., et al, arose out of a suit for judicial review in the 188th District Court for Howard County. The employer intervened into an existing judicial review suit, attempting to seek review of DWC determination of non-compensability for other employees in the same accident. After Judge Robert Moore denied Texas Mutual’s Plea to the Jurisdiction, mandamus proceedings were instituted. The 11th Court of Appeals held that an employer has no standing to challenge the denial of compensability by their carrier, or to appeal a determination of non-compensability at the DWC. As a result, the court dismissed the petition in intervention of Amerimex Drilling I, Ltd., and ordered the trial court to dismiss the intervention by December 1, 2010.

This case is significant because it is the first case to directly examine the full scope of an employer’s standing to contest DWC determinations. The Eastland court looked first and foremost to the plain language of the statute to determine that no general standing exists for employers. In its opinion, the Eastland court considered, and rejected, each of the major arguments typically asserted by employers who attempt to institute judicial reviews. They further distinguished the Tyler Asphalt case, that many employers improperly rely upon for the proposition that payment of workers’ compensation premium establishes general standing for the employer to litigate claims before the DWC and in district court. The full opinion is available here.