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Tayna Woodall v. Rich Albany Hotel

April 11, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randolph F. Treece United States Magistrate Judge


On April 21, 2011, Woodall commenced a diversity tort action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), for injuries sustained due to a fall on the Defendants' property. Dkt. No. 1, Compl. Currently pending before the Court is a Motion to Intervene filed by Woodall's employer, Skywest Airlines - ASA X Jet (hereinafter "Skywest"), through Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc., its third-party workers' compensation administrator (hereinafter "Sedgwick"). Dkt. No. 19, Mot. to Intervene, dated Jan. 19, 2012.*fn2 Skywest wishes to intervene in order to enforce a statutory subrogation workers' compensation lien. See Dkt. No. 16, Notice of Lien, dated Dec. 19, 2011. Promptly thereafter, on January 23, 2012, Woodall filed a Cross Motion seeking an order finding that Skywest does not have a valid lien. Dkt. No. 21, Pl.'s Cross Mot.*fn3

The Defendants likewise filed a timely response to the Motion to Intervene. Dkt. No. 23, Defs' Resp. to Mot.*fn4 Instead of opposing the Motion, the Defendants do not object to Skywest's intervention yet ask this Court to find Georgia's law applicable to the workers' compensation lien issue, and to further hold that a proposed settlement would not make Woodall "whole" as required by that statute, thereby rendering Skywest's lien unenforceable. As to the Cross Motion, Skywest filed an Opposition.*fn5

Dkt. No. 24.


Apparently Woodall, who is a forty-four-year-old pilot, either sought lodging at or was visiting the Holiday Inn, located on Wolf Road, Albany, New York, which is owned and operated by the Defendants. It is alleged that on December 28, 2009, at approximately 9:15 a.m., Woodall slipped and fell on ice and snow that had accumulated, causing her injuries and damages. Woodall claims that her fall was precipitated by the negligence of the Defendants. See Dkt. No. 1, Compl. As a result of her fall, Woodall "suffered a fractured bone and torn cartilage in [her] right wrist . . . [which] kept [her] out of work for over a year and required surgery and post-surgical pain management injections." Dkt. No. 21-8, Tayna Woodall Aff., dated Dec. 22, 2011, at ¶ 5. Woodall is right handed and she has been advised that her "right wrist will never be the same," which conceivably may "interfere with [her] ability to earn a living as an airline pilot." Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. This mishap occurred while she was employed as a pilot for Skywest, and, accordingly she applied and received workers' compensation, which she presumes*fn6 were paid under Georgia's Workers' Compensation Law. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4. Records reveal that Woodall was paid through workers' compensation $19,800.88 for medical benefits and $22,228.03 for wage indemnity for a total subrogation lien of $42,028.91. See Dkt. Nos. 21-4 (Notice of Lien) & 21-5, Exs. (workers' comp. payment schedule); Dkt. No. 19-1, Sarah Smith Aff., dated Jan. 18, 2012, at ¶ 6, & Ex. 4 (Payment Chart). Although Woodall received $22,228.03 for salary indemnity, she avers that her actual lost income was over $60,000. Woodall Aff. at ¶ 7, Dkt. No. 21-9, Wage Chart.


A. The Legal Standard for a Motion to Intervene

Because Skywest, through its third-party administrator, Sedgwick, provides its employees with workers' compensation coverage and met this obligation to Woodall after the accident by paying her medical bills and share of her salary, it now claims to be subrogated to her rights to recover to the extent of those payments made from the third-party tortfeasor. Smith Aff., at ¶¶ 5-7. In order to protect this subrogated right, Skywest seeks to intervene in this pending action pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 24(a) and (b). If a party files a timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who: (1) is given an unconditional right to intervene by a federal statute; or (2) claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

FED. R. CIV. P. 24(a).

As the statute indicates, a putative intervenor as of right must meet four criteria: the applicant must (1) file a timely motion; (2) claim an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action; (3) be so situated that without intervention the disposition of the action may impair that interest; and (4) show that the interest is not already adequately represented by existing parties. Butler, Fitzgerald & Potter v. Sequa Corp., 250 F.3d 171, 176 (2d Cir. 2001). A failure to meet all of these requirements justifies the denial of its motion. United States v. Pitney Bowes Inc., 25 F.3d 66, 70 (2d Cir. 1994).

Skywest contends that it is entitled to intervene as a matter of right under subsection 2 because it has an interest relating to the transaction which is the subject matter of the action, which could be impeded if not permitted to intervene. Skywest claims that it has a substantial interest in this action because it paid benefits to Woodall as a result of her injuries due to the fall and, "under the substantive law of both New York and Georgia, is subrogated to Woodall's right to recovery against the Defendant[s]." Dkt. No. 19-3, Intervenor Mem. of Law at p. 1. Where, as here, an insurer has partially compensated an insured for a loss, both the insurer and insured have a substantial right against the tortfeasor which qualifies them as real parties in interest. United States v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 338 U.S. 366, 381 (1949); Brocklesby Transp., A Div. of Kingsway Transp., Ltd v. E. States Escort Servs., 904 F.2d 131 (2d Cir. 1990) (for the proposition that if the insured is only partially compensated by the insurer, both the insurer and the insured are real parties-in- interest); Akwright-Boston Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. City of New York, 762 F.2d 205, 209 (2d Cir. 1985). But, before the Court can determine if Skywest has a protectible interest in this litigation, it must first determine which substantive law governs in this matter on the issue of preserving a lien. As mentioned above, Skywest argues that New York and/or Georgia Law permits such intervention.

B. Choice of Laws

1. The Legal ...

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