Couch v. Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd/The Hartford
ORDER granting 3 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Honorable David C. Bramlette, III on 3/27/2013 (PL)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
MARY EMILY COUCH
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:13cv00022-DCB-MTP
SENTINEL INSURANCE COMPANY,
OPINION AND ORDER
This cause is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss by
Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd./The Hartford (“Sentinel”) [docket
no. 3]. Sentinel argues that Plaintiff’s Complaint should be
dismissed because she has alleged an intentional tort for bad-faith
denial of her workers’ compensation claim but has not yet exhausted
Compensation Commission. The Plaintiff, Mary Emily Couch, argues
that she need not exhaust her administrative remedies to maintain
a bad-faith claim under Mississippi law and opposes Defendant’s
Motion on this ground alone.
Because the present matter requires little analysis, the Court
need not belabor its disposition with a recitation of the Rule
12(b)(6) standard or a lengthy discussion of relevant law. Sentinel
Supreme Court [requires] the exhaustion of the administrative
remedial process before an intentional tort claim against a carrier
can be brought.” Whitehead v. Zurich Am. Ins. Co., 348 F.3d 478,
481 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Walls v. Franklin Corp., 797 So. 2d
973, 977 (Miss. 2001)). Couch suggests that this rule is no longer
Mississippi Power & Light Company v. Cook, 832 So. 2d 474 (Miss.
2002). Yet, even a cursory reading of Cook and the other cases
cited by Couch indicate otherwise.1 See Pl.’s Br. at 1-3. In fact,
Mississippi Supreme Court in Cook reaffirmed its prior precedent
“that a claimant could not maintain a bad faith action against an
employer for refusal to pay for disputed medical services and
supplies absent the Commission’s prior determination that those
services and supplies were reasonable and necessary.” Cook, 832 So.
2d at 480 (citing
Walls, 797 So. 2d at 974 (Miss. 2001)),2 see
also Whitehead, 348 F.3d 478 (applying the rule in Walls in a case
decided almost a year after Cook); Brewer v. Sedgwick Claims Mgmt.
Servs., Inc., 2012 WL 2358155, at *2-3 (S.D. Miss. June 20, 2012)
(noting the clear distinction between Cook and Walls); Murphy v.
Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., No. 3:11-cv-37-DPJ-FKB (S.D. Miss. June 29,
This Mississippi Court of Appeals decision in AmFed
Companies, LLC v. Jordan, 34 So. 3d 1177 (Miss. Ct. App. 2009),
also did not alter the rule requiring exhaustion. In Jordan, the
plaintiff obtained an order from the Workers’ Compensation
Commission. Also in that case, it is not clear if the issue of
exhaustion was raised.
Instead, the supreme court distinguished Walls on the ground
that Cook had settled her claim and therefore did not have a claim
pending before the Mississippi Workers Compensation Commission at
the time she filed her complaint. See id.
2011) (dismissing a bad-faith claim for failure to exhaust long
after the Cook decision).
determination by the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission,
and therefore the issue is appropriate for a motion to dismiss.
Workers’ Compensation Commission is no longer required, Couch has
not made an effort to show how the general rule in Walls does not
apply to the facts in this case. Because Couch has not received a
prior determination from the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation
Mississippi law. Murphy v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., No. 3:11-cv-37DPJ-FKB (S.D. Miss. June 29, 2011). Because Couch does not have a
ripe bad-faith claim under Mississippi law, her Complaint must be
dismissed without prejudice. Accordingly,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss
[docket no. 3] is GRANTED. A separate final judgment will
prejudice. SO ORDERED, this the 27th day of March, 2013.
/s/ David Bramlette
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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