Spouse’s “Aggressive Surveillance” Cause of Action May Proceed Against Third-Party Administrator

Generally speaking, the insurance carrier (and any third-party administrator representing the carrier), while performing its proper role in the workers compensation claims process, shares the employer’s immunity to suit by an injured employee [see Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 104.05[2]]. Ah, but what is, and what is not, “proper?”

In a recent decision, a federal district court judge in Connecticut denied the summary judgment motion filed by a third-party administrator representing the Connecticut Department of Corrections in an action filed by the spouse of an injured worker who claimed the TPA “aggressively” surveilled the worker’s family in connection with its investigation of her husband’s workers’ workers’ compensation claim [see Nordstrom v. GAB Robins North America, Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46148 (W.D. Ct., Mar. 31, 2012)].

In her complaint, the plaintiff spouse charged that the TPA stepped well beyond the practices of normally investigating a claim, that on one occasion the plaintiff, accompanied by her daughter and grandfather, was “chased” on a highway by the TPA’s representatives, with the vehicles reaching speeds of 80 miles per hour. Plaintiff alleged that a few days later, when plaintiff and her family left for a camping trip in Rhode Island, an agent of the TPA followed them to the campsite and took pictures of the group. Plaintiff also contended that over the next several months, defendant’s personnel conducted additional surveillance of the plaintiff’s home and that the cumulative actions of defendant had caused plaintiff emotional distress.

The defendant moved for summary judgment, contending in relevant part that the civil action was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act. Quoting Larson, the district court held that there were issues of fact that precluded summary judgment, that the Connecticut legislation had not intended carriers and their representatives to be exempt from all torts in connection with the handling of claims.

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