BEAUMONT – The 9th District Court of Appeals at Beaumont has ordered the trial court to dismiss a truck driver's workers' compensation suit and ruled the suit’s proper venue was the Division of Worker’s Compensation.
The court of appeals granted mandamus relief and directed the trial court to dismiss John Bennett’s lawsuit against the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers – Workers’ Compensation Self-Insured Group Trust (Texas Alliance) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
According to the Nov. 16 opinion, in 2006 John Bennett, a truck driver, was driving a tractor-trailer for Hercules Transport when a drunk driver hit him.
According to an article in the Houston Press, Bennett has been fighting to get paid additional benefits since then, and is completely disabled and cannot work due to neck and ankle injuries.
Bennett’s 2011 case against the Texas Alliance was won in 2016, but Texas Alliance appealed.
Bennett filed again, and the newer suit alleges: “(1) negligence in processing Bennett’s workers’ compensation claim; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress in misrepresenting Bennett’s impairment rating and refusing to accept liability and pay benefits; and (3) fraud in misrepresenting or omitting facts about Bennett’s condition to avoid liability for benefits, and in withholding benefits," the opinion states.
The court of appeals concluded on Nov. 16, that all of Bennett’s claims in the newer lawsuit “...against Texas Alliance arise out of the claims-handling process of a workers’ compensation claim," according to the opinion.
The court therefore concludes that the case should be heard by the Division of Workers’ Compensation, and noted “We conditionally grant mandamus relief, and we direct the trial court to dismiss Bennett’s lawsuit against Texas Alliance of Energy Producers – Workers’ Compensation Self-Insured Group Trust for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”
The case came before Chief Justice Steve McKeithen, Judge Charles Kreger and Judge Hollis Horton.