United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division.
Delores BOLT, Individually, and as the Administrator of the Estate of James Bolt, Deceased, Plaintiff
TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION; Toyota Motor Corporation Australia Limited; United Air Lines, Inc.; Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A, Inc.; and Toyota Industries Corporation, Defendants
Western Ground Services, Inc., Third-Party Defendants
CASE NO. 2:03-CV-251
Attorneys & Firms
Leon Renae Russell, Russell & Shiver, Dallas, TX, Carl R. Roth, The Roth Law Firm, P.C., Michael Charles Smith, Siebman Burg Phillips & Smith, LLP, Marshall, TX, for Plaintiff.
Thomas Wayne Fee, Scott William Self, Fee Smith Sharp & Vitullo, Dallas, TX, for Defendants.
LEONARD DAVIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
*1 Before the Court is Third-Party Defendant Western Ground Services, Inc.’s (“Western”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 83).
Having reviewed the parties’ submissions and the summary judgment record, the Court concludes that Western is not a “responsible third party” as that term is used in the previous version of Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.011(6)(A) which governs in this case. A responsible third party is one who could have been, but was not, sued by the claimant and the person is or may be liable for all or a part of the damages claimed against the defendant or defendants. TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 33.011(6)(A)(ii)(iii) (amended 2003). The record shows that James Bolt (“Mr. Bolt”) was hired by Western, a Colorado corporation, in Colorado and that as an employee of Western, Mr. Bolt was covered by a policy of workers’ compensation insurance obtained through Pinnacol Assurance (“Pinnacol”). Two weeks after he was hired, Mr. Bolt died while working on an airport tug at D/FW airport. Following Mr. Bolt’s death, his spouse, Delores Bolt (“Mrs. Bolt”), filed for workers’ compensation death benefits in Colorado. Pinnacol, on behalf of Western, admitted that Mr. Bolt’s death was compensable under its policy. Thereafter, Pinnacol paid $37, 560.00 in lump sum benefits to Mrs. Bolt pursuant to an order of the Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation and continues to pay her $491.49 per week in death benefits. Western argues that because its insurer has admitted coverage and paid benefits to Mrs. Bolt and because Colorado law provides that workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for injuries sustained by employees covered by workers’ compensation insurance, it cannot be a “responsible third party” under Texas law.
Toyota argues that Western is a “responsible third party” because the terms of Western’s workers’ compensation policy show that it did not cover employees working in states other than Colorado. Thus, according to Toyota, Western was not providing sufficient workers’ compensation insurance as a matter of Texas law and does not qualify as a subscriber under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. Toyota asserts that although Western may have made payment to Mrs. Bolt under a policy in place in Colorado, it was not bound to make such a payment under Texas law. Because it was not bound to make the payment, Toyota’s argument continues, the payment should be considered a “settlement,” not a “bar” to Mrs. Bolt’s claims.1
The Court disagrees with Toyota. As an initial matter, the Court finds that Colorado law applies to the specific issue of whether claims may be brought against Western for the death of Mr. Bolt.2 Mr. Bolt, a resident of Colorado, was hired by a Colorado corporation in Colorado. Mrs. Bolt filed for workers’ compensation benefits in Colorado. Pinnacol is licensed to write workers’ compensation insurance in Colorado and issued a policy to Western in accordance with Colorado law. The Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation ordered Pinnacol to make a lump sum payment to Mrs. Bolt. Pinnacol is continuing to make weekly payments in accordance with the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act. Based on these contacts to the state of Colorado, the Court finds that Colorado has the most significant relationship to what claims, if any, may be brought against Western for the death of Mr. Bolt.
*2 Concerning whether Mr. Bolt was covered by workers’ compensation insurance, the Court fails to see how Toyota can argue that Mr. Bolt was not covered by a workers’ compensation policy when Western’s insurer admitted coverage and has actually paid benefits to Mrs. Bolt. Further, Toyota also fails to sufficiently explain why Colorado Revised Statute § 8-41-204 does not apply. COLO. REV. STAT. § 8-41-204 (1990). This statute provides that if an employee who is hired in Colorado is injured or dies in another state within six months after leaving Colorado, that employee or his dependents are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Mr. Bolt died two weeks after he was hired. Colorado law provides that for those employees covered by workers’ compensation insurance, benefits under that policy are the exclusive remedy for an on-the-job injury. COLO. REV. STAT. § 8-41-102 (1990). Thus, Western is not a responsible third party because Mrs. Bolt could not have sued Western and Western is not responsible for all or a part of Mrs. Bolt’s damages. TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 33.011(6)(A)(ii)(iii) (amended 2003). To hold otherwise would subvert the policy of both Texas, TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 33.011(6)(B) (amended 2003) and TEX. LAB. CODE § 406.034, 408.001 (Vernon 1996), and Colorado, COLO. REV. STAT. § 8-41-102 (1990), which provides that workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for on-the-job injuries.
With regard to Toyota’s alternative request that Western be declared a settling party under chapter 33 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the Court declines to make that determination at this time. Toyota may make that request at the time of trial where Plaintiff would have the opportunity to respond.
For the foregoing reasons, Western’s motion is GRANTED.
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 28th day of February, 2005.
If Colorado law applies to the issue of whether Mrs. Bolt can sue Western, Toyota does not appear to contend that Western could be a responsible third party as that term is defined by the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Rather, Toyota’s argument appears to hinge on the application of Texas law to that particular issue.
By this holding, the Court is not concluding that Colorado law applies to issues other than Mrs. Bolt’s ability to sue Western for the death of her husband.