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At a Glance:
Title:
Brooks v. General Motors Corporation
Date:
July 15, 2008
Citation:
4:08-CV-004-Y
Status:
Unpublished Opinion

Brooks v. General Motors Corporation

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division.

Debra BROOKS

v.

GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION

CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:08-CV-004-Y

|

Signed 07/15/2008

Attorneys & Firms

Michael L. Bernoudy, Jr., The Bernoudy Law Firm PLLC, Marshall, TX, for Debra Brooks.

Mark J. Dyer, Stephen D. Henninger, Martin Disiere Jefferson & Wisdom, Dallas, TX, Michael A. Williams, Lathrop & Gage, Kansas City, MO, for General Motors Corporation.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

TERRY R. MEANS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

*1 This case was originally brought in state court before being removed to this court and arises out of injuries plaintiff Debra Brooks sustained to her lower back while performing her duties for defendant General Motors Corporation (“GM”). GM has filed a motion (doc. #5) to dismiss for the failure to state a claim or, in the alternative, for lack of jurisdiction. GM’s main argument is that Brooks’s causes of action for negligence and gross negligence are prohibited by Texas Labor Code § 408.001, which provides that the Texas Workers’ Compensation system is an employee’s sole remedy for injuries sustained during the scope of his employment. After review of the motion, the Court concludes that it should be GRANTED.

I. Factual Background

According to Brooks’s state-court petition,1 she is an employee of GM. On March 23, 2006, she was working as an assembler lifting hoods and fenders onto a conveyor when her “back snapped and tightened up resulting in lower-back injuries.” She claims GM was negligent because it allowed her to perform these duties without the use of a hoist and without training her on the use of a hoist. Brooks contends the failure to use a hoist made the accident substantially certain to occur.

II. Standard

A. Failure to State a Claim under Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for a failure to state a claim “is viewed with disfavor and is rarely granted.” Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982)(internal quotations and citations omitted). The court must accept as true all well pleaded, non-conclusory allegations in the complaint, must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, and resolve all doubts in the plaintiff’s favor. See Kaiser Aluminum, 677 F.2d at 1050; Collins, et al. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). But conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, or “legal conclusions masquerading as factual [allegations] will not suffice to prevent [the granting of] a motion to dismiss.” Fernandez-Montes v. Allied Pilots Ass’n, 987 F.2d 278, 284 (5th Cir. 1993); see also Spiller v. City of Texas City, Police Dept., 130 F.3d 162, 167 (5th Cir. 1997). Indeed, a plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,” and the “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965 & 1974 (2007).

B. Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(1)

A party may seek dismissal of an action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The question of subject-matter jurisdiction is for the Court to decide even if it requires the Court to make factual findings. See Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).

*2 The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit distinguishes between “facial” and “factual” attacks on the Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction. See Paterson v. Weinberger, 644 F.2d 521, 523 (5th Cir. 1981); Irwin v. Veterans Admin., 874 F.2d 1092, 1096 (5th Cir. 1989). A facial attack involves challenging the Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction solely on the pleadings. See Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990); Paterson, 644 F.2d at 523. GM’s motion does just that and, thus, the Court must accept all allegations in the complaint as true. See Garcia v. Copenhaver, Bell & Assocs., M.D.’s, P.A., 104 F.3d 1256, 1261 (11th Cir. 1997); Paterson, 644 F.2d at 523.

In the end, subject-matter jurisdiction, or the lack thereof, “may be found in any one of three instances: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the Court’s resolution of disputed facts.” Ramming, 281 F.3d at 161.

III. Analysis

GM argues that dismissal is appropriate because recovery of workers’ compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy for an employee who suffers a work-related injury. Texas Labor Code § 408.001 provides,

Recovery of workers’ compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers’ compensation insurance coverage or a legal beneficiary against the employer or an agent or employee of the employer for the death of or a work-related injury sustained by the employee.

“The Workers’ Compensation Act exempts employers from common-law liability based on negligence or gross negligence....” Esparza v. Jozwiak, 391 F. Supp. 2d 504, 507 (E.D. Tex. 2005). Brooks makes no claim that she was not covered under the workers’ compensation system or that she could not seek relief under that statute. Accordingly, Brooks’s negligence and gross negligence claims are precluded by the Workers’ Compensation Act. Id.; see also Castleberry v. Goolsby Bldg. Corp., 617 S.W.2d 665, 666 (Tex. 1981).

Brooks argues that she has since amended her complaint, which abandons her negligence claims and asserts claims for the intentional infliction of bodily injury and emotional distress. But as mentioned earlier, the Court unfiled her amended complaint because she failed to first seek leave from the Court. Thereafter, she never moved for leave to file her amended complaint. Thus, her original petition remains the live pleading in this suit.

Nevertheless, even if Brooks’s amended complaint were considered, dismissal would still be appropriate. In her amended complaint, she claims that per the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, GM had a hoist in place but it has never been operational. From that, Brooks infers that GM knowingly and intentionally ordered her and other workers to continue their assembly work even though the hoist was not operational. And from that, Brooks claims that GM intended to inflict bodily harm and intended to inflict emotional distress.

Such inferences, however, cannot be reasonably drawn from the simple fact that GM allowed Brooks and its workers to perform their assembly assignments with a defective hoist. While it may be inferred that GM intended to have Brooks perform her duties despite the hoist’s being out of service, one may not infer that GM specifically intended to cause Brooks bodily injury and emotional distress.

*3 By her amended complaint asserting intentional torts, Brooks seeks to circumvent the exclusivity rule regarding work-related injuries by employees covered under the workers’ compensation laws. Generally, only direct assaults by an employer on an employee fall within the intentional-injury exception to the workers’ compensation exclusivity. See Reed Tool v. Copelin, 689 S.W.2d 404, 406 (Tex. 1985). The fundamental difference is that an intentional injury requires the specific intent to inflict injury. Id. Thus,

even if the alleged conduct goes beyond aggravated negligence and includes such elements as knowingly permitting a hazardous work condition to exist, knowingly ordering claimant to perform an extremely dangerous job, wilfully failing to furnish a safe place to work, or even wilfully unlawfully violating a safety statute, this still falls short of the kind of actual intention to injure that robs the injury of its accidental character.

Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted)(emphasis added). Therefore, even if Brooks had been granted leave to file her amended complaint, dismissal would still be appropriate.2

IV. Conclusion.

In light of the foregoing, Brooks’s claims are dismissed because they are precluded by the Texas workers’ compensation laws.

Footnotes

1

Brooks filed an amended complaint February 1, 2008, but the Court ordered it unfiled because she failed to first seek leave under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a).

2

It should also be noted that because Brooks’s causes of action in both her live state-court petition and her amended complaint are precluded by the workers’ compensation laws, her claims for her work-related injuries in realty arise under those laws. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c), “A civil action in any State court arising under the workmen’s compensation laws of such State may not be removed to any district court of the United States.” Thus, even if dismissal were not appropriate, remand to the state court certainly would be.

End of Document
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