Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
Submitted: July 2, 2019
Appeal from the 250th District Court Travis County, Texas
Trial Court No. D-1-GN-18-005640
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
E. STEVENS, JUSTICE
Inc., hired Melanie Steele as an independent makeup artist to
work on an Austin, Texas, set for a television series
produced by Viacom in 2006 called Meet the
Bulldogs. When the Viacom production team "cut
the lights for filming purposes," Steele fell down two
flights of stairs and suffered severe injuries, including
broken and cracked teeth, lacerations to the face and body,
broken bones, a bruised back, a strained neck, head trauma,
and a torn meniscus in each knee, ultimately leading to
double knee replacement surgery.
the accident, Steele received correspondence from Murphy
& Beane, Inc., a third-party administrator from
California, informing her of treatment plans and benefits.
Their handling of Steele's claim, including a dispute
over the need for total knee replacement surgery, led to a
lawsuit filed by Steele against both Murphy & Beane and
Viacom for fraud, fraudulent inducement, gross negligence,
and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and
Texas Insurance Code. Murphy & Beane and Viacom filed a
plea to the jurisdiction which argued that the Texas
Department of Insurance, Division of Workers'
Compensation (Division), had exclusive jurisdiction over
Steele's claims and that Steele failed to exhaust
trial court granted the plea to the jurisdiction and
dismissed Steele's claims, without prejudice, to allow
her to exhaust administrative remedies. Steele appeals.
Because we agree with the trial court's conclusion that
Steele did not exhaust administrative remedies with the
Division, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
Factual and Procedural Background
the accident, Steele said a Viacom employee took her to the
hospital so she could receive medical care under Viacom's
Self Insurance Group as a result of the injury she suffered
while working in Texas in the course and scope of her
employment with Viacom. Steele countersigned a Texas Workers
Compensation Work Status Report.
to Steele's petition, Murphy & Beane's agent
informed her that she had a "complicated case because
the injury happened in Texas but the company handling the
claim was from California." Steele asserted that the
agent never told her that Murphy & Beane was seeking to
transfer the claim from Texas to California, but that they
did so by filing an Employer's Report of Occupational
Injury or Illness in California with the Department of
Industrial Relations two months after her injury. Steele also
complained that Murphy & Beane failed to inform her that
the case should be handled under the Texas Workers'
Compensation System, failed to file the claim in Texas, and
misrepresented to [Steele] that (a) [Steele's] accident
occurred in California, that (b) [Steele] was an employee
located primarily in California, that the claim was a
California claim, and not a Texas claim, that (c) she could
not seek treatment from doctors of her choosing, that (d) she
would have to travel to California to receive a [panel
qualified medical examination (QME)], and that (e) Murphy
& Beane could close her case for non-compliance.
Steele claimed that when she travelled to California for the
QME, following a threat to terminate coverage by Murphy &
Beane, she was informed that no doctor was available to see
her. Because she returned to Texas without receiving a QME,
Steele complained that it was "difficult to receive
medically necessary treatments without either having to
undertake unnecessarily difficult and repeated negotiations
with Murphy & Beane, or just having the requested
treatments flat out denied."
also asserted that, acting on behalf of Viacom, Murphy &
Beane continuously injured her by misrepresenting
workers' compensation coverage available to her, by
applying the improper medical-treatment guidelines of
California rather than Texas, not timely filing the injury
notice in Texas, misrepresenting that the injury occurred in
California, not properly registering the self-insured group
or third-party administrator in Texas, claiming that Steele
was a regular employee domiciled in California, not timely
filing a notice of injury claim in California, actively
obstructing Steele's ability to receive medically
necessary treatment in her home state, and misrepresenting to
Steele that her coverage could be canceled by Murphy &
Beane for not complying with requests to cease seeking
treatment or for refusing to fly to California to receive a
result of these actions, Steele sued in Travis County in
2016, but the Austin Court of Appeals issued a writ of
mandamus compelling the trial court to dismiss Steele's
claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because (1)
the Division had exclusive jurisdiction over Steele's
claims and (2) she had not exhausted administrative remedies.
In re Murphy & Beane, ...