Celadon Trucking Services, Inc. v. Martinez, No. 08-07-00313-CV (Tex. App. 3/24/2010), No. 08-07-00313-CV.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtGuadalupe Rivera
PartiesCELADON TRUCKING SERVICES, INC., Appellant/Cross-Appellee, v. MARIO MARTINEZ, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
Decision Date24 March 2010
Docket NumberNo. 08-07-00313-CV.

Page 1

CELADON TRUCKING SERVICES, INC., Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
MARIO MARTINEZ, Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
No. 08-07-00313-CV.
Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso.
March 24, 2010.

Appeal from 384th District Court of El Paso County, Texas, (TC # 2002-3447).

Before McCLURE, J., RIVERA, J., and Guaderrama, Judge

McCLURE, J., not participating.

GUADERRAMA, Judge, sitting by assignment.



Celadon Trucking Services, Inc. appeals from a judgment entered in favor of Mario Martinez. Because we conclude that the Indiana Workers' Compensation Board had exclusive jurisdiction of Martinez's claims, we reverse and render judgment dismissing his suit.


Mario Martinez, who lives in El Paso, applied for a job as a truck driver with Celadon at its El Paso terminal.1 Celadon is a trucking company with its headquarters in Indiana. After being hired, Martinez traveled to Indianapolis for orientation. Celadon paid for his trip and housed him in a dormitory during the three day orientation. While at orientation, Martinez signed an agreement with Celadon's subsidiary, Celadon Trucking Company of Indiana, Inc., entitled "Worker's Compensation Acknowledgement & Agreement" which provided that Martinez's employment was "principally localized in Indiana" and Indiana workers' compensation law would apply to the settlement of any claim arising out of any job related injury. Martinez does not read English and he did not understand the documents presented to him, but he did not ask anyone to translate the documents nor did he tell anyone he could not understand them. Martinez signed the documents because he needed the job. After orientation concluded, Celadon provided Martinez with a truck and he returned to El Paso. Martinez's designated route covered several Texas cities but he sometimes drove to other states.

In August 13, 2001, Martinez suffered on-the-job injuries to his back and leg as the result of a vehicular accident in Sweetwater, Texas. After he received emergency treatment, another Celadon truck driver who was passing through transported him home. Celadon is self-insured for workers' compensation purposes in Indiana but it is not a qualified self-insurer in Texas. Celadon's workers' compensation manager, Audrey Manning, called Martinez two days after the accident and told him that his claim would be handled under Indiana law pursuant to the agreement he had signed, he would receive benefit checks, Celadon would pay for his medical care, and Celadon had the right to direct his medical care. Manning also told him to go to the Eastside Medical Care Center in El Paso for initial treatment. Manning filed a report of injury that same day and forwarded it to Celadon's third-party claims administrator, JWF Specialty Company. Karen Salwowski, a JWF employee, handled Martinez's claim. On August 27, 2001, JWF filed a form entitled "Agreement to Compensation of Employee and Employer" with the Indiana Workers' Compensation Board reflecting Martinez would be compensated weekly at a certain amount while off work. The benefit checks were deposited directly into Martinez's bank account.

Martinez complied with Manning's instructions and initially received treatment at the Eastside Medical Clinic. The doctors' work status reports restricting Martinez from all work were forwarded to Manning. MRIs of the knee and back were performed on August 20, 2001 and reflected that Martinez had a herniated disc in his lower back and joint effusion with early bursitis in the knee. Consequently, Martinez was referred to an El Paso orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Eric Sides, who restricted Martinez from all work. On August 27, 2001, Manning sent a six-page fax to Salwowski with the notation, "Mario is wanting surgery. We need to bring Mario to Indy. See Dr. Lorber." Manning explained that she wanted Martinez to get a second opinion in Indianapolis before he underwent surgery.

On October 4, 2001, Manning authorized Salwowski to hire a nurse practitioner, Beth Bader, to assist with Martinez's claim. Bader referred Martinez to Dr. Angelo Romagosa, who is a board certified in physical medical and rehabilitation and she asked Dr. Romagosa to provide detailed information about Martinez's medical condition and progress. On October 22, 2001, Dr. Romagosa provided a detailed report to Bader. He diagnosed Martinez with a lumbar strain, a herniated disc, aggravation of a facet joint in the lower back, and a knee injury. In his opinion, Martinez's prognosis for recovery was good. Dr. Romagosa stated it would be two to three months before he would be able to determine when Martinez could return to light duty. Because Martinez was experiencing severe spasms in his back and radicular pain, Martinez would not be able to return to light duty immediately, but Dr. Romagosa hoped that with treatment Martinez would be able to return to job as a truck driver in six months. Bader instructed Dr. Romagosa to take over Martinez's treatment and he proceeded to treat Martinez with corticosteroid injections in the knee and back as well as physical therapy. Dr. Romagosa also prescribed anti-inflammatory and pain medications. Manning received a copy of Dr. Romagosa's letter.

It is Celadon's policy to bring drivers to Indiana for light duty work when a light duty release is obtained. The policy has several purposes but the main reason is for medical treatment. On October 30, 2001, Salwowski instructed Bader to set up an appointment for Martinez to see Dr. John Lomas at Methodist Occupation Health in Indianapolis. Salwowski also told Bader that she needed to get a light duty release for Martinez from Dr. Romagosa. On October 31, 2001, Bader called Dr. Romagosa's office and told the staff she needed return to work restrictions "now." Bader spoke with Dr. Romagosa about her request for Martinez to travel to Indiana but he did not believe it was a good idea due to Martinez's symptoms. Bader told Dr. Romagosa that Celadon was insisting on Martinez traveling to Indiana for further treatment. She also said that Martinez would continue to receive treatment only if he flew to Indiana. Bader instructed Dr. Romagosa to complete the Texas Workers' Compensation Work Status Report form which would serve as a prescription allowing Martinez to fly. Dr. Romagosa specifically told Bader that Martinez was not ready to return to light duty and he was only clearing Martinez to fly. With Bader's guidance, Dr. Romagosa completed the form writing in the section titled "other restrictions" that Martinez "may fly by plane." He left blank the section entitled "work status information" which would have indicated that Martinez's medical condition would allow him to return to work on a given date with the restrictions listed in Section III of the form, but he listed various work restrictions in Section III. Bader forwarded the form to Salwowski and Manning.

Although she had received a copy of Dr. Romagosa's October 22, 2001 letter, Manning interpreted the form as a light duty release and called Martinez on November 2, 2001 to inform him that Dr. Romagosa had released him to light duty. She told him that Celadon had a light duty position available in Indianapolis and if he did not accept the position, his benefits would be terminated. Martinez also spoke with Bader about the letter. She told him that if he did not go to Indiana, his benefits would be cut and his therapy would cease. Martinez went to Indianapolis on November 5, 2001 because he felt he had no choice.

Celadon housed Martinez in a large dormitory in a fenced compound. He spoke with Manning and she represented to him that he had been released to light duty. When he asked to see the release, Manning refused to show it to him. At this point, Martinez began to suspect that Manning was lying to him. He saw Dr. Lomas the following day and was released to light duty. Manning put Martinez to work.

On January 10, 2002, Bader notified Manning and Salwowski that Martinez had been scheduled for a functional capacity evaluation. She expected Martinez to be placed at maximum medical improvement (MMI) and that he would be discharged from medical care. Martinez attended the functional capacity evaluation on January 11 and a report was sent to Dr. Lomas. When Martinez saw Dr. Lomas on January 15, Dr. Lomas concluded that Martinez's functional abilities were permanent and released him from care. Celadon terminated Martinez's employment the same date because he had been released from workers' compensation with permanent restrictions.

After receiving Dr. Lomas' written diagnosis that Martinez had a 7% permanent impairment, Salwowski prepared a settlement agreement entitled "Agreement to Compensation of Employee and Employer." The agreement is on Indiana state form 1043. According to the agreement, Martinez had a 7% PPI and he would be paid $9,100 in a lump sum upon approval of the Indiana Workers' Compensation Board. Martinez met with Manning and presented the agreement to him. She told him that he had reached maximum medical improvement and he did not need any more treatment. Manning told Martinez that if he did not sign the agreement, he would get nothing, but if he signed it, he would get the money and Celadon would send him home to his family. Martinez signed the documents and returned to his family the same day. The Indiana Workers' Compensation Board approved the agreement. Martinez was unable to continue with his therapy following his termination because he could not afford it.

Martinez filed suit against Celadon alleging non-subscriber negligence, wrongful termination, and fraud. The trial court granted partial summary judgment on all causes of action other than the fraud and wrongful termination. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Martinez on the fraud claim and in favor of Celadon on the wrongful termination claim. The jury awarded actual damages in the total amount of...

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