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Strickland v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 20, 2018

STEVEN STRICKLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY MUTUAL INSURANCE CO., THE FIRST LIBERTY INSURANCE CORP. and SPAN SYSTEMS, INC. Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Steven Strickland (“Plaintiff”) has sued Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., The First Liberty Insurance Corp. (“Liberty Mutual”), and Spans Systems, Inc. (“Span”) (collectively “Defendants”). Specifically, Mr. Strickland alleges that Liberty Mutual engaged in an unfair business practice in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110, and the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (“CUIPA”), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 38a-816. Mr. Strickland also alleges that Defendants have engaged in tortious conduct in violation of state common law.

         Because the Court sua sponte finds it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this lawsuit, the case is remanded to Connecticut Superior Court. Defendants' motion to dismiss therefore is DENIED as moot.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Mr. Strickland worked as a steel worker for Span.[1] Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1-1. Span allegedly maintained a worker's compensation policy (“Policy”) with Liberty Mutual, Defs.' Br. at 4, ECF No. 22, which, as a result of Mr. Strickland's employment with Span, made him an “insured, covered party, and/or third party beneficiary” under the Policy. Compl. ¶ 10.

         On March 27, 2014, while working for Span, Mr. Strickland allegedly suffered a work-related injury, requiring surgical repair. Compl. ¶ 13. Mr. Strickland allegedly sustained the injury while on a job at The Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts construction project, located in Connecticut. Id. ¶ 12. Mr. Strickland allegedly reported the work-related injury to Span, and Span, in turn, relayed the report to Liberty Mutual. Id. ¶ 14.

         The following day, Span's insurer, Liberty Mutual-“despite being fully aware that Mr. Strickland was injured on the job in Westport[, ] Connecticut, that Mr. Strickland resided in Connecticut, and that he received his medical treatment in Connecticut”-allegedly instructed Mr. Strickland to sign paperwork Liberty Provided to him to him for the purpose of filing a workers' compensation claim. Id. ¶¶ 15, 17. Mr. Strickland allegedly signed the paperwork, and Liberty Mutual allegedly filed Mr. Strickland's worker's compensation claim with New Hampshire's Department of Labor. Id. ¶ 16-17. “[Liberty] thereafter adjusted, evaluated, and/or processed [Mr. Strickland's] claim under New Hampshire law.” Id. ¶ 18.

         Liberty Mutual's conduct allegedly compelled Mr. Strickland to hire an attorney licensed in New Hampshire to handle the jurisdictional issues caused by Defendant. Id. ¶ 26. The Complaint asserts that Liberty Mutual knowingly and deliberately deprived Mr. Strickland of the proper jurisdiction so as to gain an unfair advantage over Mr. Strickland. Id. ¶ 23(b). It also maintains that Liberty Mutual “engages in . . . unscrupulous conduct to deny benefits to similarly situated insureds, covered parties, and/or third party beneficiaries with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice.” Id. ¶ 25.

         On September 19, 2014, Mr. Strickland allegedly filed a notice of claim with the Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission regarding his work-related injury. Id. ¶ 20. The Complaint claims that, approximately two months later, Liberty Mutual conceded and acknowledged that Connecticut was the proper jurisdiction over the Mr. Strickland's claim and voluntarily moved Mr. Strickland's claim to Connecticut. Id. ¶ 22. The Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission then asserted jurisdiction over Mr. Strickland's claim. Id. ¶ 20.

         B. Procedural History

         Mr. Strickland filed a complaint in Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of New Haven against Defendants. See generally Compl. Mr. Strickland alleged seven total counts; both Liberty Mutual entities face identical counts: bad faith (counts 1 and 4); violation of CUTPA/CUIPA (counts 2 and 5); and civil fraud (counts 3 and 6). The Complaint also alleges Defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy (count 7). Mr. Strickland seeks money damages, both compensatory and punitive, and attorneys' fees. Compl. ¶ 27. p. 20. Mr. Strickland seeks damages in excess of $15, 000.00, exclusive of interests and costs. Compl. at 21.

         Liberty Mutual removed to this Court on April 26, 2017. ECF No. 1.

         Liberty Mutual has moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to ...


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