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Davis v. George Hyman Construction Co.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 27, 2018

EARL C. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE HYMAN CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION FEBRUARY 26, 2018 [DKT. # 292, 296, 298]

          RICHARD J. LEON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Earl C. Davis ("plaintiff or "Davis"), a disabled former employee of defendant George Hyman Construction Company ("George Hyman"), seeks enforcement of an order governing the obligations of defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company ("Liberty Mutual") when responding to plaintiffs reimbursement requests for medical expenses. The sole question remaining in this decades-old case is whether Liberty Mutual's responses to three reimbursement requests by Davis-requests dated March 14, April 3, and November 21, 2001-complied with prior orders of this Court.

         On February 9, 2015, this Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Robinson "for the purpose of making written findings" on that question. 02/09/2015 Minute Entry. In response, Magistrate Judge Robinson received testimony and evidence during days of evidentiary hearings, waited as both sides pursued-and were denied-relief regarding various aspects of the hearings, and reviewed numerous filings on the question of Liberty Mutual's compliance with the relevant orders. Magistrate Judge Robinson's admirable efforts culminated in a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated June 16, 2017. See 6/16/2017 Order [Dkt. #293]; 6/16/2017 Mem. Op. [Dkt. #294]. In her opinion, Magistrate Judge Robinson rejects a number of Davis's arguments regarding Liberty Mutual's liability. She concludes, however, that Liberty Mutual did commit two violations of prior court orders that required Liberty Mutual to pay Davis $28, 000 in total fines. See 6/16/2017 Mem. Op. 20, 23.

         Both sides have filed objections to Magistrate Judge Robinson's memorandum opinion and order. See Defs.' Obj. to Mem. Op. & Order Dated June 16, 2017 ("Defs.' Obj.") [Dkt. #298]; Full Appeal & Obj. to June 16, 2017 Mem. Op. of Mag. Judge ("Pl.'s Obj.") [Dkt. # 300].[1] In addition, in a separate motion filed prior to the issuance of Magistrate Judge Robinson's opinion, defendants argue that this entire action should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Lack of Jurisdiction [Dkt. # 292]. Upon consideration of the parties' filings, the remainder of the record, and the relevant case law, the Court DENIES defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, OVERRULES the parties' objections, and AFFIRMS Magistrate Judge Robinson's memorandum opinion and order.

         BACKGROUND

         A thorough recitation of the factual background and lengthy procedural history of this case can be found in Magistrate Judge Robinson's memorandum opinion, see 6/16/2017 Mem. Op. 2-9; therefore, I will provide only a brief summary of the present dispute. Following an on-the-job injury that occurred while plaintiff was working for George Hyman, plaintiff was adjudicated to be permanently disabled-and thus entitled to benefits-under the Longshore and Marbor Workers' Compensation Act ("the Act"), 33U.S.C. § 901 et seq.

         Pursuant to an administrative compensation order, plaintiff was entitled to be reimbursed for certain medical expenses by George Hyman's insurance company, Liberty Mutual. Plaintiff, however, suffered many difficulties in dealing with and receiving timely payment from Liberty Mutual. See Davis v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, 961 F.Supp.2d 1, 2 (D.D.C. 2012). To address Liberty Mutual's failings, plaintiff sought enforcement of the administrative compensation order in the district court. See Id. at 1, 6; see also 33 U.S.C. § 921(a), (d). In an order dated August 24, 1982 ("1982 Order"), a district judge previously assigned to this action clarified "the procedures by which . . . Mr. Davis was to submit reimbursements to defendant Liberty Mutual" as well as "the time and format by which Liberty Mutual was to respond." Davis, 961 F.Supp.2d at 2; see also 1982 Order [Dkt. #292-8].

         Nearly two decades later, plaintiff reported that he was still experiencing difficulties in obtaining reimbursements from Liberty Mutual. See 11/9/1999 Minute Entry. Ultimately, after discovery and hearings on the question of Liberty Mutual's compliance, Magistrate Judge Robinson issued an order modifying the original 1982 Order. See 3/15/2001 Order ("2001 Order") [Dkt. # 50]. In addition to clarifying Liberty Mutual's response requirements, the 2001 Order set forth a penalty scheme under which Liberty Mutual would be fined for delays in complying with its response obligations. See Id. ¶ 6 ("For every day beyond the 30 days specified in this order . . . that Liberty Mutual fails to pay in full or file an adequate response to a request for reimbursement or payment, Liberty Mutual will be liable for a $ 500 fine. . . ."); see also Davis, 961 F.Supp.2d at 2.

         As the voluminous record of this case indicates, much has occurred since entry of the 2001 Order. To make a very long story short, our Circuit has remanded the case for a determination on one remaining question: "[W]hether Liberty Mutual's responses" to Davis's "March 14, April 3, and November 26, 2001" reimbursement requests "complied with the 2001 order, and if any of them did not, to impose the fine prescribed by that order." Davis v. Dep't of Labor, No. 13-5026, at 2 (D.C. Cir. May 2, 2014) ("Remand Order") [Dkt. #213]. This Court subsequently referred the case to Magistrate Judge Robinson for the purpose of making written findings on that question. See 2/9/2015 Minute Order. In a memorandum opinion and order issued in June 2017, Magistrate Judge Robinson addressed the question of Liberty Mutual's liability, concluding that Liberty Mutual committed two violations of the 2001 Order that obligated the company to pay $28, 000 in fines to plaintiff. See 6/16/2017 Mem. Op. 20, 23. Both parties object to aspects of Magistrate Judge Robinson's opinion and order. I now turn to those objections, ultimately agreeing with Magistrate Judge Robinson's analysis.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Before addressing the merits of the parties' objections to Magistrate Judge Robinson's memorandum opinion and order, I must address the threshold jurisdictional issue recently raised by defendants. Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because there is no "unsatisfied final order issued by an ALJ" and thus no jurisdiction under the Act. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Lack of Jurisdiction 1. That is incorrect.

         As this Court and our Circuit have previously explained, 33 U.S.C. § 921(d) supplies a district court with jurisdiction to "enforce compliance with a final compensation order arising from the LHWCA's administrative process." Davis, 961 F.Supp.2d at 6. Because there remain three active disputes over Liberty Mutual's compliance with the administrative compensation order and this Court's enforcement orders, Davis remains "entitled to employ this Court's enforcement jurisdiction under § 921(d)." Id.; see also Davis v. U.S. Dep't of Labor, No. 84-5307, at 2 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 28, 1985) [Dkt. # 292-14] ("We do note, however, that the August 24, 1984 order is still binding on the appellees. Should appellant face problems with the timeliness of any future medical bills, the District Court has jurisdiction to ensure that its order is obeyed."). It is worth noting, moreover, that our Circuit remanded the case to this Court with instructions to "determine whether Liberty Mutual's responses to the requests dated March 14, April 3, and November 26, 2001, complied with the 2001 order and, if any of them did not, to impose the fine prescribed by that order." Remand Order 2. By arguing that this Court lacks jurisdiction, defendants in effect invite me to conclude that our Circuit overlooked a fundamental jurisdictional defect with these proceedings and remanded the case to a court powerless to render the requested determination. Please. While I may have tugged on the lion's whiskers from time to time, I have not, and will not, kick it in the teeth! In short, defendants' jurisdictional challenge is without merit.

         B. ...


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