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The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) provides the sole remedy for parties who suffer injuries arising out of the course and scope of their employment. There are exceptions to the exclusivity provision of the Act, however, that allow employees to pursue civil claims against their employers. The exceptions to the exclusivity provision were the topic of a recent Massachusetts opinion issued in a case in which a legal secretary sought compensation for harm caused by intentional acts. If you sustained harm at work, it is in your best interest to consult a capable Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer regarding what benefits you may be able to recover.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

Reportedly, the plaintiff worked for the defendant as a legal secretary at his law firm. Initially, she was his only employee, but he expanded his staff over the years. The evidence demonstrated that he regularly engaged in abusive behavior towards the plaintiff, such as belittling and verbally attacking her and screaming and shouting in her face.

It is alleged that the plaintiff ultimately left the defendant’s employ and filed a lawsuit against him, asserting intentional infliction of emotional distress and other claims. The defendant moved for dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, arguing they were barred by the exclusivity provision of the Act. The case proceeded to trial, and a jury found in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant then appealed. Continue reading →

In its report dated November 4, 2020, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded an estimated 2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019 in the private industry sector. These estimates are from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).

Manufacturing accounted for 15% of all private industry non-fatal injuries and illnesses. These injuries include sprains, strains or tears, pain, soreness, lacerations, cuts, punctures and fractures. Ten occupations accounted for 33.2 percent of all private industry cases. Of these, laborers and freight, stock, and material movers had the highest number of cases with 64,160, followed by heavy and tractor-trailer drivers. Closing out this group of high-incidence injury occupations, in order, are nursing assistants, stockers and order-fillers, retail salespersons, light truck drivers, maintenance and repair workers, registered nurses, construction laborers, janitors and cleaners, (excluding maids and housekeeping cleaners).

Consistently over several years, data shows the following trends in injury incidence rates in the workplace. Injuries in order of frequency from highest to lowest include overexertion, falls, slips and trips, contact with objects or equipment, violence and other injury by persons or animals and finally transportation incidents.

In any civil lawsuit, the parties will engage in discovery during which they will exchange documents and depose witnesses to attempt to obtain facts in support of their position. Not all materials are discoverable, however, as certain information is protected by privilege. In a recent product liability case in which it is alleged that medication caused birth defects,  the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts discussed when a plaintiff can be compelled to disclose information relied upon by and obtained from a consulting expert. If you were or a loved one suffered injuries due to  a defective product you should speak with a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney about your potential claims.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the defendant setting forth product liability claims alleging that  drug manufactured by the defendant and prescribed to pregnant women caused birth defects in their children. In part, the plaintiffs relied on a report by an expert third-party witness, in support of their argument that the defendant’s drug caused birth defects. The defendants sought to depose the third-party witness, and sought documents regarding the relationship between the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the third-party witness via discovery. Plaintiffs and the third-party witness both filed motions for a protective order arguing that the documents sought were protected by the work-product doctrine. The court ultimately denied the motions, finding that the documents were not privileged.

Massachusetts workers’ compensation requires insurers to pay for appropriate and necessary treatment under §§ 13 and 30 of the Workers’ Compensation Act for employees who suffer a workplace injury. Since an employee’s medical history can affect whether or not money is paid for a disability, multiple injuries and health conditions can limit or prevent payments for reasonable and necessary treatment. In one of the last Reviewing Board decisions of 2017, the Board assessed whether or not an administrative judge’s order for the insurer to pay expenses under §§ 13 and 30 of the workers’ compensation act was made in error after he refused to allow additional medical evidence during the proceeding.

The employee suffered a repetitive motion workplace injury to her left elbow in 1997. The woman underwent two unsuccessful operations in 1997 and 1998, which caused nerve damage and enduring pain in her left arm. In 1999, she received a lump sum for the injury, entering into an agreement with the insurer, which agreed to pay for reasonable, necessary related medical expenses. A year after this agreement, she began taking Fentanyl and Vicodin to help manage pain.

Between the agreement and the proceeding, the injured employee earned an advance degree and returned to work for a different employer. In 2009, she broke two toes and sprained her ankle in an accident unrelated to work, developing Reflex Sympathy Dystrophy (RSD) in her right leg. For this, she was prescribed Fentanyl, Vicodin, and Lyrica for pain. Between 2010 and 2015, her health insurer paid for these medications.

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