NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.
Select a state from the dropdown menu below to scroll through the state specific archives for updates and opinions on various workers’ compensation laws in your state.
Contact information for NWCDN members is also located on the state specific links in the event you have additional questions or your company is seeking a workers’ compensation lawyer in your state.
Casey Sutterfield was a derrick hand who claimed a workers’ compensation injury while working
in North Dakota for a Texas Company, Teravita. He says that after his injury, his employer made
misrepresentations about the availability of workers’ compensation benefits and created a hostile
work environment. He was either fired or resigned, depending on whom you believe. He returned
home to Texas and filed a workers’ compensation claim.
The carrier denied the claim, which was the subject of a contested case hearing in which the DWC
ruled in favor of Mr. Sutterfield. Mr. Sutterfield then sued the employer, the carrier and two
adjusters individually for discriminatory conduct, negligent misrepresentation, and conspiracy. The
employer filed a motion to dismiss the suit asserting that it was based on the employer’s constitutional right to associate with the carrier and to petition the DWC, protected by the Texas
Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). The Dallas Court of Appeals agreed and, on April 1, 2016, the
Texas Supreme Court refused to review the Dallas Court’s ruling.
The TCPA was enacted to “encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition,
speak freely, associate freely, and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent
permitted by law and, at the same time, protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits for
demonstrable injury.” The Dallas Court said that participation in a workers’ compensation hearing
at the DWC was an exercise of the employer’s right to petition and that testimony at that hearing
was “an absolutely privileged communication.” Mr. Sutterfield argued that his claims against the
employer were exempt under the TCPA because that act expressly exempts actions brought “under
the Insurance Code or arising out of an insurance contract” from its protection. The Dallas Court
disagreed, holding that his lawsuit was not brought under the Insurance Code, rather it was brought
under the Texas Labor Code and common law and he sought damages, not under the insurance
contract between the employer and carrier, but under the provisions of the Labor Code.
The Dallas Court dismissed Mr. Sutterfield’s conspiracy claim and his claim for employment
discrimination by presenting false testimony during the claim process because the TCPA protected
the employer during the hearing process at the administrative level. The court refused to dismiss
the employment discrimination claims regarding the hostile work environment, representations that
he was not entitled to pursue benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act and wrongful discharge
as well as the negligent misrepresentation claims, as those were based on statements made outside
the DWC proceedings, and were not protected by the TCPA. The entire opinion can be found at
Tervita, LLC v. Sutterfield, 482 S.W.3d 280 (Dallas App. - 2015, pet. ref’d).