August 4, 2016

Massachusetts Appeals Court Reviews Medical Malpractice Notice

In any civil lawsuit, the plaintiff must ensure the at-fault party or parties receive notice of the claim so that they can appropriately respond. In Massachusetts medical malpractice actions, the General Laws specifically require that an injured patient or estate give written notice to a provider of health care 182 days before the case begins. (See G. L. c. 231, § 60L.) notice boardThe claim must include the factual basis for the claim, the standard of care alleged by the claimant, the breach of the standard of care, the course of action that should have been taken, how the breach injured the patient, and the names of all the health care providers that the injured person intends to sue.

In the recent decision of Arsenault vs. Battacharya (15-P-197), the Massachusetts Appeals Court looked at whether or not dismissal without prejudice was too harsh a remedy when an injured party failed to provide notice in accordance with G. L. c. 231, § 60L. In this case, the injured patient went to her general practitioner, the defendant in this case, for carpal tunnel in her wrists. The primary care physician injected her wrists with cortisone, with two separate injections on each wrist over three visits. Later, after surgeries on both wrists, she discovered that the tendon ruptures were caused by cortisone injections.

The filed complaint alleged that the doctor should have known that multiple cortisone shots would increase the risk of rupture to her wrists. The knowledge this was a possibility can be seen in a letter written by the doctor for the injured person's workers' compensation claim. The injured patient alleged that she became totally and permanently injured as a result of the negligently administered cortisone shots. The claim was filed nearly six years after the first injection to one of her wrists but within three years of the start of the statute of limitations, which began when she was told by an Independent Medical Examiner that her ruptures were caused by the shots. The defendant doctor moved for dismissal, alleging non-compliance with G. L. c. 231, § 60L, and the motion was granted by the trial court.

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July 28, 2016

Massachusetts Case Assesses Whether Injured Employee Receives Reimbursement for Medical Treatment

When an injury occurs in a Massachusetts workplace, an injured employee can receive payment for the medical treatment of the injury as long as it was related to the workplace accident. In Thomas A. Novack's Case (15-P-1090), a nursing home employee sustained a lower back injury while on the job. He eventually received a lump-sum payment with an agreement that the insurer would keep paying for medical treatment that was adequate, reasonable, and stemming from the workplace injury. Money PileThe injured employee received treatment from various providers after the settlement, and those costs were paid by the insurer for the next five years. The insurer then ceased payment, and Medicare began paying for all of the medical treatment received thereafter.

The employee filed for reimbursement from the Department of Industrial Accidents for the treatment paid for by Medicare. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) pondered whether the injured employee could even seek reimbursement when a third party made the payment, but the ALJ ultimately stopped at the finding that the treatment was not adequate, reasonable, or causally related to the workplace injury. The ALJ also noted in the decision that there was a lack of proof that bills were submitted to the insurer before they were given to Medicare. The request for reimbursement was denied, and the injured employee appealed.

The Appeals Court looked at the conclusions of the ALJ to see if the evidence supported the findings. The ALJ did not find the treating physician's letters persuasive in their attempt to show the connection from the back treatment to the workplace accident. The appellate court felt the ALJ documented sufficient evidence to rule against the injured employee. The ALJ's ruling in favor of the insurer was affirmed.

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July 20, 2016

Massachusetts Appeals Court Reverses Premises Liability Case In Favor of Injured Customer

The Commonwealth's Appeals Court recently reversed and remanded a personal injury lawsuit originally dismissed by summary judgment in favor of the business. In Belanger vs. Boys in Berries, LLC (15-P-1263), the injured customer fell when she tripped on a large octagonal cardboard box and pallet at the end of the checkout counter. The box was visible from the checkout line, but the pallet underneath was hidden from view. Testimony during trial revealed the injured customer commented on the shape of the box. After the customer paid for her items, she caught her right foot on the corner of the pallet, seeing it only seconds before contact. She fell down, injuring her hip and shoulder. Even though the box had arrows to help warn about the pallet, the warnings were obscured from the sightline of anyone standing in the checkout line. palletsThere was a large crate of melons near the pallet and box, but there wasn't any debris on the floor, nor was there poor lighting.

Property owners must maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. They must consider the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden to avoid the risk. If there are unreasonable dangers, the property owner must warn any visitors of those dangers if they are aware or should have been aware that they exist. The exception to this is if the danger itself was open and obvious. The appellate court, in its analysis, pointed out that the pallet use itself wasn't necessarily unreasonably dangerous, but its placement could be. The court looked at Massachusetts case law regarding whether a landlord is liable for the negligent placement of an obstruction in a common area. The court felt a reasonable jury could have found that the store created an unsafe condition by placing a box on top of a pallet in the path from the checkout line to the exit.

The appellate court also felt that the evidence at trial presented a legitimate question of whether the pallet fell under the case law exception as an open and obvious danger that did not require a warning. The court felt there was a possibility that a reasonable jury could find that the box wasn't really visible until a customer turned to exit the store, so it was not an open and obvious danger. Since the evidence available to the jury presented genuine questions of fact, the Appeals Court felt that the evidence was just strong enough to survive summary judgment. The ruling in favor of the defendant store was reversed, and the case was remanded.

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July 13, 2016

Massachusetts Appellate Court Reviews Stillbirth Wrongful Death Case

Breach of duty and causation are two of the main elements to prove in personal injury lawsuits. Even if a breach occurred, it must also be the cause of the alleged injury. In Milambo vs. Catlin (15-P-687), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts reviewed a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the father of a child who was stillborn, on behalf of the child's estate. At the trial, one of three doctors was found by the jury to be negligent but not a substantial contributor to the child's death. The estate alleged that the doctors who participated in the child's delivery were negligent by delaying a c-section.

At trial, the defendants argued that the child died within the womb due to an undetermined cause. The defendants pushed back against the estate's claim that they delayed the caesarean with the assertion that the mother delayed in giving her consent to the c-section. Baby UltrasoundAs part of the defense, the doctors emphasized the mother's medical history, which included several previous surgical procedures preceding the delivery of her stillborn child. On the date of the delivery, the mother went to the hospital, complaining of constipation and abdominal pain. A fetal heart monitor was placed on the mother, which showed normal results for about five hours. After six hours, the monitor results went from normal to poor, and a c-section was determined to be necessary. The defendants claimed that the father argued with them that the baby was fine and asked for his wife's gynecologist, asserting they didn't know what they were doing, and the pain medication was causing the problems.

Forty-five minutes passed between the time the doctors first told the mother a c-section was needed and when consent was given. Nearly two hours after she was told a c-section was needed, the surgery was performed, and the child was delivered stillborn. The cause of death was certified as "unknown intrauterine fetal demise." The lone expert for the estate was an obstetrician/gynecologist who testified that the consent form signed four months before should have been valid, that there should have been constant fetal monitoring, and that the delay violated the standard of care governing physicians in their specialty. The defendants had two experts who testified that the three treating physicians followed the standard of care, based on their review of the care provided to the mother and the need to receive her consent on the day of the delivery. The perinatal pathologist who testified for the defense also confirmed that the cause of the stillbirth was unexplained and undetermined.

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July 7, 2016

Massachusetts Appellate Decision Upholds Verdict Finding Interference with Inheritance and Unjust Enrichment

The Commonwealth's Appeals Court recently released an opinion looking at whether or not a niece appointed as attorney-in-fact interfered with an inheritance by not releasing funds held in a joint account from the sale of a house that would have been distributed as part of the estate. In Sarro vs. Ciancarelli (14-P-230), the testator's health began to diminish in the 1980s, and her niece began providing care and assistance with financial matters. frosty neighborhoodDuring this time period, the niece opened a joint account to help pay for her aunt's living expenses. This account was in both of their names and became a focal point of this appeal.

After the niece was made attorney-in-fact, she sold a residence that was a part of the estate to her own son and his girlfriend for $135,000. This residence had previously been conveyed to her brothers, with the testator retaining a life estate, but was eventually restored to the testator after the niece advised her uncles that the transfer to their sister was necessary for Medicare purposes. The proceeds of the sale were placed in the joint account, and some were used for the funeral and final expenses of the testator. $90,000 was left in the account but was retained by the niece.

The testator's brothers eventually filed a complaint against the niece with several allegations, including interference with inheritance and unjust enrichment. The case went to a jury trial. During deliberations, the jury asked a question about whether the funds from the sale of the house would have gone to the testator's estate. The judge answered that it would depend on the intentions of those on the account and the terms under which the account was opened. The jury found the niece liable for interference with inheritance and unjust enrichment, awarding the testator's brothers $45,000 each.

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June 28, 2016

Massachusetts Appeals Court Reviews Jury Instructions for Premises Liability Case

A large number of premises liability cases arise from situations like slip and falls or hazardous passages. In both of these situations, the owner or manager of a property or business is liable when she or he fails to exercise reasonable care for the safety of the invited public. A recent Appeals Court case, Wess v. Butterworth (14-P-1790), addresses a different type of premises liability case. Here, the court assessed whether the jury instructions were an adequate reflection of the law that creates a duty for landlords to use reasonable care to guard against the foreseeable wrongful and criminal acts of third parties. In this case, the injured man was stabbed by an estranged friend who entered the building without authorization. The injured man alleged the landlord was negligent because the apartment building doors had locks but no peepholes, intercom, or buzzer system to help identify anyone on the other side of the door.


The injured man and his wife filed suit against the landlord of the property, complaining of serious physical and psychological injuries. The case proceeded all the way to trial, where the jury found that the landlord had been negligent, but her negligence was not the proximate cause of the harm to the plaintiffs. The verdict returned was ultimately in favor of the defendant, and the injured man and his wife appealed. On appeal, the couple argued that the judge erred by not giving a requested instruction regarding the definition of proximate cause and superseding cause.

The requested instructions included a recitation of the law described above - that the failure of the landlord to use reasonable care to guard against the foreseeable wrongful and criminal acts of third parties may result in a breach of the duty to exercise reasonable care. The appellate court agreed that the proposed instructions reflected the law and could even have included the established law that the specific criminal act did not need to be foreseeable, just the type of crime. The appellate court determined that the supplemental instruction given to the jury accurately described proximate causation and went on to charge that the injured man did not have to foresee the exact manner in which the harm occurred, but the harm he suffered must have been a natural and probable consequence of the defendant's negligence.

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June 21, 2016

Massachusetts Appeals Court Reviews Core Elements of Negligence Action Against Demolition Company

In Draper v. Francesco Demolition, Inc. (15-P-702), the Commonwealth's Appeals Court reviewed a directed verdict made during trial in favor of the defendants in a personal injury action, determining whether an injured man contracted bacterial pneumonia as a result of the defendants' negligence. In this case, the focus was whether the injured man presented enough proof to show his injury was caused by the defendants. In its analysis, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's determination that the injured man needed some sort of expert testimony to help the jury distinguish between his pre-existing condition and the injuries caused by the bacterial pneumonia alleged to have been caused by the standing water.

leaves puddleDraper centered around proof of causation, which is one of the four elements in any personal injury action. The four elements in a negligence lawsuit are commonly known as duty, breach, causation, and damages. A defendant cannot be held liable unless she or he owes some sort of duty under the law to the injured party. The injured party must then show that the duty was breached and that the breach was the cause of the injury. Proving causation at trial can be accomplished in many ways, depending on the situation. People who witnessed the scene can be called to testify. Professionals can be called to testify about their field of expertise to help the jury understand a complicated engineering or medical concept. Pictures and research can also be utilized to help illustrate certain ideas or a sense of the place where the injury occurred.

The appellate court in Draper looked at the injured man's health and lifestyle, which included tobacco and alcohol use, prior lung disease, a pre-existing heart block, and a need for a pace-maker. During trial, the injured man chose not to introduce any medical records or expert testimony. He also chose to change the injury from pneumonia to an unidentified illness, even though the defendants used a medical expert who testified it was pneumonia and caused by his collection of pre-existing conditions. The injured man claimed he was going to rely on his own testimony, his wife's testimony, and a witness, but that was not enough for the trial court or the Appeals Court.

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June 14, 2016

Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Reviewing Board Affirms Benefits Awarded to Nursing Assistant with Severe Knee Injury

Many types of employment involve repetitive motions. Over the course of time, these repeated movements can lead to an injury that is compensable under Massachusetts' workers' compensation laws. A recent Board Decision in Aguilar v. Old Republic Insurance (Bd No. 029539-12) reviewed a decision that awarded a limited amount of temporary total incapacity benefits, an ongoing award of partial incapacity benefits, and medical benefits for a total replacement for the injured worker's right knee. In this case, the injured employee worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), which required her to move, feed, dress, and bathe patients. During the proceedings, the injured CNA testified that she felt pain in her knees, especially the right one. The nurse stated that she fell to the floor in 2011, landing on the right knee while bringing a tray to a patient.

elderly patientThe employee stopped working in the year following the fall, and she had the knee replacement procedure. The injured CNA then applied for short-term disability benefits, followed by workers' compensation benefits. Following the filing of this claim, the CNA was seen by an impartial medical examiner, who agreed with her treating physician that her employment was the major cause of her knee injury. The judge adopted these opinions, ruling out the pre-existing condition defense raised by the insurer. The judge found the injured CNA's testimony regarding her multiple falls was credible, based on the hospital visit that followed a fall and a report to a supervisor. The judge also felt that she should be credited for all the multiple, documented complaints she made throughout the years preceding the knee replacement to her supervisor.

In addition to arguing the injured employee's knee was the result of a pre-existing condition, the insurer also argued that the CNA did not prove she fell and struck something during the last reported fall, nor did she prove the rest of the falls described arose out of her employment. The insurer pointed to the employee's non-work-related diagnosis of vertigo and dizziness as the cause of the falls. While the Reviewing Board agreed that the judge did not make findings about the falls or the nature of the falls, the judge felt that those falls were not really relevant to whether or not the injured CNA suffered a workplace injury. The board found that the focus of these proceedings was the repetitive movements the employee had to make while performing her duties. The board felt that there was plenty of evidence and testimony for the judge to find a workplace injury did occur, and to award all of the temporary, partial, and medical benefits.

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June 6, 2016

Massachusetts Appeals Court Upholds Trial Verdict in Favor of Estate in Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Suit

Soon after a lengthy personal injury trial, the unsuccessful party can move for a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict and for a new trial, claiming that the evidence did not support the verdict handed down by the jury. This occurred in a recently issued Massachusetts Appeals Court decision, Ellis vs. Peter Clarke (15-P-868), in which the defendant doctor, an emergency radiologist, appealed a jury verdict in favor of the estate of a now-deceased patient. In this appeal, the defendant physician challenged the use of a witness and the conclusions drawn by the jury based on the evidence presented that his actions led to the death of the patient and grantor of the estate.

chest x-rayThe defendant radiologist argued that the estate did not use an appropriate witness who was a standard radiologist, rather than an emergency radiologist. The appellate court listed several cites from case law, which has established the standards for a medical expert. A medical expert may be utilized to testify about many things, including the appropriate standard of care for a patient with the health issues around which the litigation centers. Massachusetts case law has specifically addressed that the expert does not have to be a specialist in the area concerned. The medical expert witness just needs to have the sufficient education, training, experience, and familiarity with the main subject matter of the testimony. The trial judge made a prior determination that the estate's medical expert was qualified based on his experience reading chest x-rays from ERs, alongside his training and education.

The radiologist also questioned the judge's ruling determining that the estate did not have to produce evidence showing the diagnosis of cancer should have been made by a certain date. The appellate court did not think a date was necessary, particularly since the law presumes that any warning, if given, will be heeded. In this case, the expert witness stated that the deceased patient would have had a greater chance of survival if the appropriate care had been used and she had been warned.

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May 25, 2016

Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Reviewing Board Analyzes Case Determining Award of Total Incapacity Benefits

In Massachusetts workers' compensation claims, an award of partial incapacity benefits rather than total incapacity benefits can make all the difference to a worker and his or her family. It can be the difference between financial strain and an existence that resembles life before the accident. Massachusetts workers' compensation law Ch. 152 §1(7A) allows compensation for workplace injuries that exacerbate pre-existing conditions, as long as there is a determination of whether or not the compensable injury remains a major cause of the disability or need for treatment. The workplace injury does not have to be the predominant cause of the disability. In Herrera vs. Mediate Management, Inc. (Bd. No. 010696-10), the Reviewing Board chose to return the case to the Administrative Law Judge for additional findings of fact regarding whether or not the compensable injury was a major cause of the disability. cleaning janitorThe board did so because it felt there was insufficient analysis in the determination of whether or not the janitor's current medical condition entitled him to receive total incapacity benefits instead of partial incapacity benefits.

In this case, the janitor tore his medial meniscus and underwent physical therapy and arthroscopic knee surgery. The janitor testified that his pain did not abate, and he was unable to work in the same occupation due to this injury. The ALJ, in his findings, wrote that he agreed with the medical opinion of the insurer's expert witness, which concluded he had a pre-existing condition that was unrelated to the injury and progressive in nature. However, he also wrote that he agreed with the janitor's medical expert, who placed restrictions on the employee's movement and opined that the work-related injury remained a major contributing factor to his need for treatment. The ALJ then concluded, based on the testimony of the impartial physician (which was not formally adopted), that the arthritis and continuing degeneration were not caused by the workplace injury. The judge went on to rule that the janitor could work light duty and qualified for partial incapacity benefits, but not total incapacity benefits.

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May 18, 2016

Massachusetts Appellate Decision Reviews Whether Insurance Company Settlement Offer Was Unreasonable for Injured Pedestrian

Since insurance coverage is mandated by law, most car accident victims must deal with one or more insurance companies when seeking compensation for injuries to their person and property. An insurance company must follow certain settlement guidelines found within Massachusetts' General Laws in order to ensure fair claims settlement practices. In a recent case, Villanueva vs. Commerce Insurance Company (15-P-697), the Appeals Court looked at whether or not the at-fault party's insurance company offered a reasonable settlement prior to the trial to an injured pedestrian.

bicycle pedestrian signThe accident that forms the foundation of this action involved a woman who was seriously injured after she was struck by a motorist. The insurer of the driver independently determined that the injured woman was more than 50 percent negligent because she stepped out between two parked cars into traffic while wearing dark clothes on a dark morning. There was a witness to the accident who provided a statement that he saw a car driving too fast, leaving the scene of the accident right after the collision occurred. The driver stated that she circled the block after the impact because it was still dark, and she did not receive a citation from police when they arrived at the scene. The injured pedestrian had no memory of the accident.

After the accident, the plaintiff sought the limit of the driver's policy, but only if the matter settled prior to filing suit. The at-fault driver's insurer offered only $5,000 to settle the claim, instead of the $100,000 policy limit. The injured pedestrian then filed suit against the driver. The driver's insurance company tried repeatedly to take testimony from the lone witness, but it was unsuccessful at reaching him until right before the scheduled date of trial. The jury awarded the injured pedestrian $414,500, reduced by the pedestrian's comparative negligence of 35% in the accident. After the jury verdict, but before post-trial motions, the driver's insurer paid the policy limit of $100,000.

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May 11, 2016

Wrongful Death Car Accident Case Involving Eleven-Year Old Child Assessed by Commonwealth

When an at-fault party is faced with a lawsuit, they will raise any and all legal defenses available to avoid liability. In all litigation, courts attempt to avoid duplicative processes to provide efficient and effective justice. The legal doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel bar re-litigating claims or issues that have been previously decided on the merits in a prior adjudication in a final judgment. pedestrian crossingIn complicated personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits with multiple parties, doctrines like res judicata and collateral estoppel are often utilized to bar or limit claims an injured party, estate, or family member may have.

In Resto vs. City of Lawrence (14-P-1711), an 11-year-old boy was hit by a car crossing a street undergoing a lot of construction. A motorist driving his car at a high rate of speed hit the child, who died as a result of his injuries. The administratrix of the estate filed suit against the driver of the car as well as companies that were hired by the city to perform construction work at the high school. The estate alleged in an amended complaint that the construction companies did not take proper steps to mitigate the intersection's pedestrian safety issues. A year after the original complaint was filed, the estate filed to amend a second time and added the Massachusetts city as a defendant. The estate alleged the city failed to maintain signage about the increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

The trial court judge denied the amendment, determining that the city did not owe a duty to the deceased boy and that its negligence was not the proximate cause of the accident. The companies hired by the city later filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that the court's reasoning in its prior refusal to allow the addition of the city applied to them. The companies felt this logic should extend to them - that no duty of care was owed to the child who died, and that their negligence was not the proximate cause of the child's injuries. The judge agreed, and the claims against the companies were dismissed through the court's entry of summary judgments.

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May 4, 2016

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Weighs Administrator's Affidavit in Wrongful Death Car Accident Case

Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court weighed whether or not an affidavit submitted by an administrator of an estate had to be based on personal knowledge. In Bayless vs. T.T.S. Trio Corp., (474 Mass. 215), the estate filed suit for a man who died after a solo car accident, which occurred after he left a restaurant bar he often frequented. The estate sought to hold the restaurant liable under the Commonwealth's Dram Shop Act, G. L. c. 231, § 60J, which holds establishments responsible if they continue to serve alcohol to patrons when they knew or should have known the patron was intoxicated. As part of any civil action, the Act requires an affidavit to be filed within 90 days of filing the complaint. bar sceneThe defendant restaurant appealed the decision of the trial court, which allowed an affidavit submitted by the administrator as part of the initial pleadings. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided to hear the case under an interlocutory petition for relief.

The affidavit described the deceased's behavior throughout his patronage of the restaurant and the evening he died. The statement was made based on information gathered from several witnesses who had witnessed his excessive drinking, which often caused him to have impaired movement and speech. Witnesses also described conversations between the deceased person and an unnamed female bartender, who would continue to serve the decedent alcoholic drinks after he was clearly intoxicated.

On the evening of his death, the decedent was witnessed drinking at 4 P.M., when he proceeded to become drunk once again. He spoke to his daughter several times, who asked him to come home to a family barbecue. The daughter also spoke to the bartender mentioned above, who tried to assure her he was fine. This same bartender later told a different patron that she was concerned about the decedent because he hadn't eaten anything. The bartender, as was her custom, continued to serve him alcohol, and he bought and drank 12 drinks while he was at the restaurant. The daughter, during her last call to him at 9 P.M., noticed his speech was slurred. Soon afterward, he died in a vehicle crash from multiple traumatic wounds.

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April 26, 2016

Massachusetts Appeals Court Reviews Termination of Workers' Compensation Benefits for an Industrial Accident

In Robert Amaral's Case (15-P-860), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts reviewed whether or not it was appropriate for an administrative hearing judge to terminate a worker's total weekly incapacity benefits. The worker injured his shoulder and lower back while helping restrain two juveniles at the Department of Youth Services. He originally received both total and partial incapacity benefits, but his employer, a self-insurer, filed to discontinue the total incapacity benefits.

backache-1620045-639x442.jpgThe employer argued that the injured worker was no longer entitled to weekly benefits because the injury sustained at work was not a major cause of his continued disability. The administrative judge relied upon the employer's medical expert witness, who opined that his disability mostly stemmed from his pre-existing spinal degeneration and obesity.

In all workers' compensation cases, the judge is allowed to weigh the medical evidence presented in order to determine whether the injuries sustained by the worker were actually from the workplace and not aggravated by conditions preceding the accident or aggravated by circumstances outside of and unrelated to work. In this case, the injured worker appealed the judge's ruling and the affirmation of the Reviewing Board, arguing that the judge had abused her discretion by adopting the medical opinion of the employer's expert.

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April 19, 2016

Massachusetts Appellate Decision Allows Patient in Nursing Home to Remain Eligible for Medicaid Benefits

There are many documents you can and should use for your Massachusetts estate plan. Medical care considerations can become especially complicated as you weigh the resources available to help cover the cost. The recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case of Heyn vs. Dir. of the Ofc. of Medicaid (15-P-166) reinforces a grantor's ability to create an irrevocable trust, which could then make him or her eligible for Medicaid benefits.

helping-the-elderly-1437135-639x738.jpgIn this case, the grantor, now deceased, created a self-settled irrevocable inter vivos trust, transferring the title to her home to the trust, while retaining a life estate interest that would not make her ineligible for Medicaid benefits. The grantor moved into a skilled nursing facility and applied for Masshealth benefits to pay for the cost of her care, which were originally approved. After a little over a year at the nursing facility, she was notified that her benefits were terminated based on the agency's determination that the home held by the trust should be considered a countable asset, rendering her ineligible for benefits.

The grantor of the estate appealed, but she died before a decision was issued upholding the termination of benefits. The hearing officer determined that the trust allowed the trustee to sell the assets and invest the proceeds of the sale in other forms of investments, like an annuity. The officer reasoned that annuity payments can create income for the grantor, which should be considered a "countable asset" for determining Medicaid/Masshealth benefits eligibility. The Superior Court upheld the hearing officer's ruling, and the case went on to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

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