United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
E. DOWDELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative,
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 22) filed by the defendant,
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (State Farm).
Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company (Hartford), initiated
this action based upon diversity jurisdiction. Charles
Dawson, now deceased, was injured in an automobile accident
in Kansas. At the time of the accident, Dawson was acting in
the course and scope of his employment. Dawson was deemed an
Oklahoma employee, and he accepted benefits under
Oklahoma's workers' compensation law. Hartford was
the workers' compensation insurance carrier for
Dawson's employer, and Hartford made the workers'
compensation payments to Dawson.
sued the estate of the third party tortfeasor in Sedgwick
County, Kansas district court. On September 18, 2012, the
judge in the Kansas case entered a Journal Entry of Judgment
awarding Dawson a total of $688, 217.93 in damages against
the tortfeasor's estate. Dawson entered into a settlement
agreement with the tortfeasor's estate and State Farm,
which was the tortfeasor's automobile insurance carrier,
for a total payment of the policy limits of $100, 000.00.
State Farm deposited its policy limits with the Kansas court,
which ordered payout of the settlement funds to Dawson.
case, Hartford alleges that it was “statutorily
assigned Dawson's claim against the tortfeasor to the
extent of the payments [Hartford] made for workers'
compensation benefits” and that Hartford “is
entitled to recoupment of its payments from Dawson [under
Oklahoma law].” (Doc. 2 at 3, ¶¶ 16-17).
Hartford further alleges that “State Farm['s]
distribution of the settlement funds were wrongful payments
in derogation of [Hartford's] statutorily assigned
interest in Dawson's settlement funds, made after
[defendant was] placed on notice of [Hartford's]
interest.” (Id. at ¶ 18).
Farm alleges that: Hartford has not stated a claim; the Court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction
over State Farm; and venue here is improper.
Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim
Farm moves for dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing
that Kansas workers' compensation law does not provide an
abrogation claim. (See Doc. 22 at 14 [incorporating
arguments from Doc. 18]). On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the
Court must determine whether Hartford has stated a claim to
relief under Count One that is “plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-569 (2007). In making that determination, the Court
must accept all well-pleaded allegations of the Complaint as
true, even if doubtful, and must construe the allegations
most favorably to the plaintiff. See Id. at 555.
case, Hartford's Complaint cites the Oklahoma
workers' compensation statutes as the basis for its right
to recover in this case. As noted, the payments Hartford made
to Dawson were made via the Oklahoma workers'
compensation court, not the Kansas court. At this time, and
without deciding the ultimate question of whether or not
Hartford is entitled to recover under Oklahoma workers'
compensation law, the Court determines that Hartford has
stated a plausible claim to recover money from State Farm.
The Court has subject matter jurisdiction
action is based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332. To meet diversity jurisdiction, a plaintiff must
establish that there is complete diversity and the value of
the claim exceeds $75, 000. Id. A corporation is
“deemed to be a citizen of every State and foreign
state by which it has been incorporated and of the State or
foreign state where it has its principal place of
business.” 28 U.S.C. § 1332(c)(1). In its
Complaint, Hartford asserts that it is incorporated in
Connecticut with its principle place of business in
Connecticut, and State Farm does not challenge that
jurisdictional allegation. State Farm is incorporated in
Illinois with its principle place of business in Illinois.
Thus, diversity exists. Hartford also alleges that it paid
more than $200, 000 in medical benefits and indemnity to and
on behalf of Dawson and claims to be owed more than $75, 000
based on those payments. Both diversity and the amount in
controversy are satisfied, and the Court has subject matter
this case as a collateral attack on the Kansas District
Court's Order to pay out settlement funds, State Farm
argues that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over
Harford's claim. Collateral estoppel or claim preclusion
is an affirmative defense, which the defendant must plead and
prove. See Pelt v. Utah, 539 F.3d 1271, 1283 (10th
Cir. 2008). “Under Tenth Circuit law, claim preclusion
applies when three elements exist: (1) a final judgment on
the merits in an earlier action; (2) identity of parties or
privies in the two suits; and (3) identity of the cause of
action in both suits.” Id. (quoting MACTEC
Inc. v. Gorelick, 427 F.3d 821, 831 (10th Cir. 2005)).
Hartford was not a party in the Kansas suit, and that suit
involved a personal injury claim between Dawson and the
third-party tortfeasor, whereas this suit is between a
workers' compensation insurer (Hartford) and the