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Chen v. The Hartford Insurance Co., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 9, 2017

ED (ITE) CHEN, Plaintiff,


          F. Dennis Saylor, IV United States District Judge.

         This is a case relating to a claim for workers' compensation. Plaintiff Ed (Ite) Chen alleges that defendants Hartford Insurance Co., Inc. and Twin City Fire Insurance Company, sued as “Twin Cities Fires and Casualty Insurance Company, ”[1] wrongfully failed to pay his workers' compensation claim; engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A; defamed him, allegedly in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D, § 3(3); and refused to conduct a reasonable investigation of his claims in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 176D, § 3(9)(d). Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. Because adjudication of plaintiff's claims in this Court is barred by the Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Act (“MWCA”), defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The complaint alleges that Ed (Ite) Chen was employed by Viceroy Chemical in 2013 as an analytical chemist. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ L, 4, 11). It alleges that he was exposed to toxic chemicals while working at a property in Fall River owned by Quantum Catalytic and operated by Continuum Energy Technologies, due to poor ventilation in his workspace. (Id. ¶¶ jdx.1, B, C, I, 10, 20).[2] It further alleges that Continuum employee Thomas Godfrey was in charge of safety but discouraged Chen from filing a claim or going to the hospital. (Id. ¶ A). And it alleges that Chen suffered various types of neurological, physical, and emotional damage as a result. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 33).

         Defendants Hartford Insurance Co., Inc. and Twin City Fire Insurance Co. are insurance companies; Twin City is a subsidiary of Hartford. (Def. Mem. in Supp. Mot. to Dismiss at 1 n.1). According to the complaint, Quantum Catalytic, Continuum, and Viceroy were insured by Twin City. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8, 20). A company called Transformative Energy Technologies Investments, LLC allegedly “introduced Chen to Continuum Energy Technology” and was insured by Hartford itself. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13).

         The complaint admits that “Chen's personal injuries fall within the jurisdiction of workers comp, ” but alleges that “Chen is pressing his claim outside the workers compensation system after exhausting administrative avenues within the system for his workers comp claim.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 24). Another allegation suggests that Chen did not follow the administrative process to completion: “Chen exhausted all procedural avenues within department of industrial accidents as he was summarily denied advancement to the conference state by the conciliator, who failed to inform Chen of his right to appeal her decision until the appeal period lapsed.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). And certain other allegations in the complaint suggest that Chen is choosing not to go forward under the workers' compensation scheme because he finds it inadequate. For example, the complaint alleges that Harford has an interest in denying Chen's workers' compensation claim because it also insured the parties allegedly responsible for Chen's injury- Quantum Catalytics and Continuum. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15). It further alleges that “[b]ecause the Hartford and their subsidiary the [T]win [C]ities [F]ire [I]nsurance [C]ompany omitted key medical information to the workers comp system and to their own lawyers, adjusters, and independent medical examiners, failed to conduct any investigation, and had conflicts of interest with respect to their other clients in attempting to deny Chen's claims, Chen cannot press his claim through the MGL 152 worker's comp system.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 17). And it complains that “[t]he cozy relationship between the workers comp system, the lawyers in workers comp, the insurance companies with the lawyers, and lastly the high powered investor who partnered with Chen and purchases extensive insurance with the Hartford . . . merit a civil case outside the workers comp system makes it impossible [f]or Chen to receive a fair hearing within the worker's compensation system.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 19).

         The complaint further alleges that Hartford failed to investigate his claim and suppressed medical evidence that he submitted. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 21, 51, 57-59). It alleges that Hartford only contacted one witness, (id. ¶ E, 52); that Hartford did not give the independent medical examiner any legible medical records, (id. ¶¶ 60-61, 65); that Hartford failed to give its lawyers copies of the letters written by the neurologist and toxicologist that Chen hired to document his injuries, (id. ¶¶ 56-59, 65); that it forced him to litigate to have his claim investigated, (id. ¶ 70); and that it failed to give him a reasonable explanation for its denial of coverage, (id. ¶ 74).

         Finally, the complaint alleges that two of Hartford's lawyers told the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (“DIA”) conciliator that he was lying about his injuries, and “defamed Chen to the DIA conciliator by telling her Chen was the CEO of a company that had run out of cash and it was highly suspicious, despite the fact the [sic] after Chen made his claim, [V]iceroy Chemical continued to operate and raise money, and perform patent activity for another three years after Chen's injury, making blatantly false and misleading postulations despite contradictor[y] evidence which were known or should have been known to him.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 34, 36, 43).

         Chen seeks “a preliminary injunction for the Hartford to provide medical evaluation of [his] condition by appointing an independent neurologist, occupational therapist and toxicologist to evaluate the physical damage to Chen due to his exposure to gases which are banned by the Geneva protocol on gas warfare, ” monetary damages including $540, 000-three years of the salary listed on his workers' compensation policy-and a lifetime loss of salary, treble damages under Chapter 93A, and at least $1.62 million in exemplary damages. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23, 29, 30, pp. 9-10).

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed this action on April 6, 2017. An amended complaint was deemed to be filed on August 4, 2017. (ECF 18). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on September 1. Plaintiff filed his opposition on September 22, and defendants filed a reply on October 5. A motion hearing was held on October 11. Although plaintiff was provided with telephone dial-in information, he did not appear at the hearing either in person or by telephone.

         Defendants have submitted detailed facts related to plaintiff's three administrative claims filed with the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents (“DIA”) and a prior state-court action in New York. Because the Court concludes that it need not rely on any facts related to those proceedings, it expresses no opinion as to whether those facts are appropriately part of the record at this early stage.

         II. Stand ...

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