Supreme Court Rules Against Injured Worker

The Texas Supreme Court has recently ruled against a fire fighter who was injured on the job. The gist of its opinion is that, once again, a workers' compensation carrier cannot be liable under the main enforcement provisions of the Texas Insurance Code and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (dtpa). In addition, the insurance company does not have a common-law duty of good faith and fair dealing to the injured employee.

The opinion was issued in Texas Mutual Insurance Company v. P. Lance Morris, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2012), decided on October 26, 2012. In this case, "Morris injured his back while working for the Justin Community Volunteer Fire Department." The fire department promptly reported to its workers' compensation insurance company that Morris had injured "his back while working." At that point, the carrier accepted the claim and paid benefits. Three years later, when Morris had to go to the emergency room due to severe pain, doctors determined he needed surgery. The insurance company disputed whether his condition stemmed from the job-related injury.

Morris then followed the administrative review scheme of the workers' compensation act, and the Division of Workers' Compensation ruled in his favor. Only after that did the carrier pay for Morris' medical and income benefits.

Seeking recovery for his actual damages caused by the insurance company's delay, and also seeking to recover attorney's fees and statutory penalties, Morris sued it under the Insurance Code, dtpa, and common law. The jury who heard the facts of the case ruled in his favor, and the court of appeals affirmed his judgment (with a modification). The Supreme Court, however, "reversed and rendered," meaning it threw out the case forever.

The Court ruled that, in an earlier decision, it had determined that a workers' compensation insurance carrier cannot be held accountable under the Insurance Code for unfair claims settlement practices. That is because the amended workers' compensation act, in the opinion of the Court, was comprehensive. And, since the employee cannot bring a claim under the Insurance Code, he was denied the protections the dtpa, too.

The Court also held that the amendments to the act "eliminated the need" for a carrier to liable when it does not handle a claim in good faith. The only remedy the Court will allow a worker to pursue requires proof that the carrier misrepresented the terms of the policy. Like most cases in which an insurance company refuses to pay the benefits it owes, that did not occur here.

The ultimate result is that, when an insurance company treats a injured worker in bad faith, it cannot be held responsible under the dtpa, the common law, or the most meaningful provisions of the Insurance Code.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a workplace related accident, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-222-7211 or 1-800-870-9584.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Awards & Recognition

  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

Get Your Free Case Review 713.587.9668

Let Us Help You Today! Request a Free Consultation

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

  • $80 Million Personal Injury Large Plant Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 270 plaintiffs', taking a lead role in the plaintiffs' steering committee, who suffered injuries in a large plant explosion resulting in a settlement of nearly $80 million.

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Plant Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 45 personal injury victims in a plant fire and explosion, serving on the plaintiffs' steering committee, concluding with a settlement of more than $50 million.

  • $22+ Million Personal Injury Work Site Accident

    The firm prevailed in a personal injury trial for a worksite injury client with the jury returning a verdict and resulting in a judgment of over $22 million for the firm's client.

  • $12 Million Auto Accident 18-Wheeler Collision

    The firm successfully achieved a $12 million settlement for the family of a man who died in an 18 wheeler collision.

  • $30 Million Personal Injury Burn Victims

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $30 million.

Our Record Of Success.

When you are hurt and you choose a law firm to represent you in court or at the negotiation table, you need to carefully consider the firm's record.

More Success Stories