Travelers Ins. Co. v. Smith, No. 97-415

CourtSupreme Court of Arkansas
Writing for the CourtBROWN
Citation947 S.W.2d 382,329 Ark. 336
PartiesTHE TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY and Dan Ray, Petitioners, v. Honorable Kim M. SMITH and Anna F. Smith, Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. 97-415
Decision Date07 July 1997

Page 382

947 S.W.2d 382
329 Ark. 336
THE TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY and Dan Ray, Petitioners,
v.
Honorable Kim M. SMITH and Anna F. Smith, Respondents.
No. 97-415.
Supreme Court of Arkansas.
July 7, 1997.

Page 383

[329 Ark. 337] Don A. Taylor, David L. McCune, Fayetteville, for Appellant/Petitioner.

Jeff Slaton, Springdale, for Appellee/Respondent.

BROWN, Justice.

This is a petition for a writ of prohibition filed by petitioners The Travelers Insurance Company, the workers' compensation insurance carrier for Gerald Johnson Trucking Company, and Dan Ray, who is employed by Travelers as a claims adjuster. The respondents are circuit judge Kim M. [329 Ark. 338] Smith and the claimant's widow, Anna F. Smith. 1 We deny the petition.

On September 30, 1996, respondent Anna F. Smith filed an amended complaint against Travelers Insurance and Dan Ray seeking damages for misrepresentation and the tort of outrage. Anna Smith alleged that her husband, Alva Smith, was killed in a one-vehicle trucking accident in Washington County in the course of his employment with Gerald Johnson Trucking Company. After Alva Smith's death, Anna Smith authorized Charles Farmer, Jr., a representative of the Sisco Funeral Chapel, to arrange her husband's funeral and handle matters with Travelers Insurance.

The complaint alleged that although the Washington County Coroner and the Arkansas State Police had determined that the cause of Alva Smith's death was massive head trauma, Dan Ray represented to Farmer that no workers' compensation benefits would be paid until an autopsy had been performed. It was further alleged that Ray stated to Farmer that Travelers Insurance first had to determine whether the true cause of Alva Smith's death was a heart attack or other pre-existing condition. Ray, according to the allegations, never took steps to have the autopsy performed and failed to authorize the embalming of Alva Smith's body. Anna Smith claimed that Ray made the following misrepresentations to her: (1) that an autopsy was required; (2) that if Alva Smith had suffered from a heart attack or other pre-existing condition immediately prior to the accident, his death would not be compensable; and (3) that he (Ray) was making efforts to obtain an autopsy. Anna Smith alleged that the misrepresentations were made for the purpose of inducing her to refrain from embalming her husband's body and proceeding with the funeral. As a result, Anna Smith incurred refrigeration costs, and, due to the delay in embalming, was unable to have an open-casket funeral. She claims that she experienced severe and extreme mental anguish, [329 Ark. 339] which Ray knew would naturally and probably result from his conduct.

Travelers Insurance and Ray answered and asserted affirmatively that Anna Smith's claim was barred by the exclusive-remedy provision of the Workers' Compensation Act or, alternatively, by the fact that she accepted workers' compensation benefits paid by Travelers Insurance on behalf of Gerald Johnson Trucking Company and, thus, had elected her remedy. The petitioners next filed a "Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment," claiming again that Anna Smith's exclusive remedy lay under the Workers' Compensation Act and that she had elected her remedy by accepting death benefits in the amount of $32,910.

The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. In a letter opinion, the trial court reasoned that Anna Smith was not seeking damages on the account of the death of her husband and that the injuries she allegedly suffered did not arise from Alva Smith's employment. The court further noted that the Workers' Compensation

Page 384

Act did not provide a remedy for her alleged wrong and that her action was therefore not barred by the exclusive-remedy provision. The court also denied summary judgment and, in doing so, ruled that genuine issues of material fact existed as to the claims of misrepresentation and outrage. Travelers Insurance and Ray filed a "Motion for Additional Findings and for Reconsideration," which was dismissed by the trial court. This petition for writ of prohibition followed.

I. Exclusive Remedy

Petitioners' first ground in support of prohibition is that Anna Smith's lawsuit is at odds with the exclusive-remedy provision of the Workers' Compensation Act. See Ark.Code Ann. § 11-9-105(a) (Repl.1996).

We begin by addressing our standard of review. A writ of prohibition is an extraordinary writ that is appropriate only when the lower court is wholly without jurisdiction. Nucor Holding Corp. v. Rinkines, 326 Ark. 217, 931 S.W.2d 426 (1996); West Memphis Sch. Dist. No. 4 v. Circuit Court, 316 Ark. 290, 871 S.W.2d 368 (1994). When considering the propriety of issuing [329 Ark. 340] the writ, this court's review of jurisdiction is limited to the pleadings. Western Waste Indus. v. Purifoy, 326 Ark. 256, 930 S.W.2d 348 (1996); Nucor Holding Corp. v. Rinkines, supra. Where the encroachment on workers' compensation jurisdiction is clear, a writ of prohibition is warranted. Western Waste Indus. v. Purifoy, supra; Nucor Holding Corp. v. Rinkines, supra.

In asserting that the circuit court is wholly without jurisdiction to hear Anna Smith's claim, Travelers Insurance and Ray rely primarily on three cases--Johnson v. Houston General Ins. Co., 259 Ark. 724, 536 S.W.2d 121 (1976); Cain v. National Union Life Ins. Co., 290 Ark. 240, 718 S.W.2d 444 (1986); and Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Coleman, 313 Ark. 212, 852 S.W.2d 816 (1993). In Johnson v. Houston General Ins. Co., supra, the claimant suffered a compensable injury and was awarded benefits to be paid in one lump sum. When the payment was not forthcoming, the claimant filed a complaint against his employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier and alleged that payment was being withheld for harassment purposes, which resulted in substantial...

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23 practice notes
  • Kuykendall v. Gulfstream Aerospace Tech., No. 97,036.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • December 17, 2002
    ...so outrageous as to warrant submitting issue of intentional infliction of emotional distress to jury.]; The Travelers Ins., Co. v. Smith, 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382, 386 (1997) [No bar to misrepresentation and outrage arising out of adjuster's representations regarding autopsy requirement......
  • Hendrix v. Alcoa, Inc., No. CV–15–558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • December 15, 2016
    ...exceptions where it is plain that the Act does not provide a remedy for the claim. For instance, in Travelers Insurance Co. v. Smith , 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382 (1997), the widow of an employee killed in a work-related accident sued the employer's compensation carrier in the circuit cour......
  • Hendrix v. Alcoa, Inc., No. CV-15-558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • December 15, 2016
    ...made exceptions where it is plain that the Act does not provide a remedy for the claim. For instance, in Travelers Insurance Co. v. Smith, 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382 (1997), the widow of an employee killed in a work-related accident sued the employer's compensation carrier in the circuit ......
  • Hendrix v. Alcoa, Inc., No. CV-15-558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • December 15, 2016
    ...made exceptions where it is plain that the Act does not provide a remedy for the claim. For instance, in Travelers Insurance Co. v. Smith, 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382 (1997), the widow of an employee killed in a work-related accident sued the employer's compensation carrier in the circuit ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Kuykendall v. Gulfstream Aerospace Tech., No. 97,036.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • December 17, 2002
    ...so outrageous as to warrant submitting issue of intentional infliction of emotional distress to jury.]; The Travelers Ins., Co. v. Smith, 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382, 386 (1997) [No bar to misrepresentation and outrage arising out of adjuster's representations regarding autopsy requirement......
  • Hendrix v. Alcoa, Inc., No. CV–15–558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • December 15, 2016
    ...exceptions where it is plain that the Act does not provide a remedy for the claim. For instance, in Travelers Insurance Co. v. Smith , 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382 (1997), the widow of an employee killed in a work-related accident sued the employer's compensation carrier in the circuit cour......
  • Hendrix v. Alcoa, Inc., No. CV-15-558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • December 15, 2016
    ...made exceptions where it is plain that the Act does not provide a remedy for the claim. For instance, in Travelers Insurance Co. v. Smith, 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382 (1997), the widow of an employee killed in a work-related accident sued the employer's compensation carrier in the circuit ......
  • Hendrix v. Alcoa, Inc., No. CV-15-558
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arkansas
    • December 15, 2016
    ...made exceptions where it is plain that the Act does not provide a remedy for the claim. For instance, in Travelers Insurance Co. v. Smith, 329 Ark. 336, 947 S.W.2d 382 (1997), the widow of an employee killed in a work-related accident sued the employer's compensation carrier in the circuit ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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