How disdain for government regulation sparked a “Texas miracle” economy — while tearing down protections for the workers who built it.
Crystal Davis, a stay-at-home mom from Tyler, got some welcome news in her battle against an insurance company that sued to cut off the workers’ compensation benefits she got after her husband was killed on the job.
Davis’ lawyer, Frank Weedon, called to inform her early Thursday evening that ACE American Insurance had dropped its lawsuit against her and her children. Davis’ story was featured in The Texas Tribune’s four-part series published this week, Hurting for Work, about the struggles people face after they or their loved ones are hurt or killed on the job in Texas.
“I feel like I’m dreaming. I’m relieved,” she said. “My whole family is relieved.”
Wayne Davis, a traveling sales and profit coach for Burger King, was killed in a traffic accident in September 2012 while driving to an appointment with a Burger King franchise in Coushatta, Louisiana. Like many Texans, his wife and children were entitled to receive death benefits under his employer's workers’ compensation policy.
But Davis’ case demonstrated that the promised benefits don’t always materialize in Texas, where employees are only winning about a third of the major disputes against insurance companies in the state-regulated workers' compensation system.
The insurer argued in this case that Wayne Davis was not in his workday, even though he was in a company car fueled with company gas. When the dispute went to the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, Crystal Davis beat ACE American at all three stages of the administrative process. But, under its right of “judicial review,” the insurer sued her and her two children, Cash, 6, and Lucy, 3, to stop payment of the benefits.
Representatives of Burger King and ACE did not immediately return emails Thursday evening.
Weedon, Davis’ lawyer, attributed the sudden move to drop the lawsuit to the publicity the case generated.
“What people think matters,’’ he said. “It’s a different world.”
Weedon theorized that ACE was emboldened to act aggressively because there is little consequence for pushing the envelope too far. He pointed in particular to a controversial Texas Supreme Court ruling that essentially eliminated lawsuits against insurance companies over so-called bad-faith handling of claims.
Davis said she was elated that her case is over but said she felt sympathy for others who are still battling it out in the workers' compensation system.
“Justice was served for Wayne. But for all of the people who have had their legitimate claims denied, my heart goes out to them,” she said. “The outlook is bleak. The workers’ compensation system is failing them.’’