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Under Massachusetts law, employees who suffer work-related injuries can often recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. Only injuries that arise out of and in the course of employment are compensable, however. As such, if a claimant cannot establish that the harm they suffered is work-related, their claim for benefits may be denied. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what evidence a claimant must offer to show that their harm was work-related in a case in which it ultimately denied the claimant’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. If you were hurt while working, you might be owed benefits from your employer, and you should speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your options.

The Claimant’s Harm

It is alleged that the claimant worked as a night custodian for a charter school from 2007 through July 2015, when he was terminated. Three weeks after he lost his job, he had a heart attack when he was mowing his lawn. He subsequently filed two workers’ compensation claims. In the first, he alleged he suffered a workplace injury in August 2014 following a negative interaction with his supervisor that caused him to suffer psychological and emotional harm. In the second, he alleged he suffered a workplace injury on the day he was terminated that also caused him to suffer psychological and emotional harm and brought about his heart attack.

It is reported that both claims were brought before an administrative judge who determined that the bona fide personnel action defense barred the plaintiff’s claims. The claimant appealed to the Department of Industrial Accidents, and while it concluded that the administrative judge improperly applied the bona fide personnel action defense, the denial of the claimant’s claims was nonetheless proper. The claimant then appealed to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts. Continue reading →

Under Massachusetts law, employees who suffer injuries in the workplace can often recover workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). In exchange for such statutory protections, they lose the right to seek civil damages from their employers for personal injuries. They can, however, seek compensation from other parties that contributed to their injuries. If they do, such parties are barred from seeking indemnity from the injured party’s employer by the exclusivity provision of the Act, as discussed in a recent Massachusetts ruling. If you suffered harm at work, it is in your best interest to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to determine what benefits you may be owed.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the employee, while working for the employer, visited a third-party property to empty a dumpster manufactured by the defendant. When he was emptying its contents, the dumpster fell onto him, causing him to sustain injuries to the lower half of his body. He filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. In turn, the defendant filed a motion for leave to file a third-party complaint against the employer, arguing that it was liable on theories of contractual and common law indemnification.

The Exclusivity Provision of the Act Bars Third Party Claims Against Employers

The court denied the defendant’s motion to the extent that it sought to pursue common law indemnification claims against the employer. The court explained that motions for leave to join third-party defendants will not be granted when doing so would be futile. It elaborated that such a motion would be futile if the third-party complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Continue reading →

Massachusetts employees who suffer workplace injuries can typically recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employers pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act).  In exchange for the right to receive such benefits, however, they are generally precluded from pursuing civil claims for work-related injuries against their employers by the Act’s exclusivity provision. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed the applicability of the exclusivity provision with regard to claims asserting harm caused by negligence supervision and hiring. If you were injured at work, it is smart to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about what benefits you may be able to recover.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, her former employer, in which she alleged that the defendant failed to provide a safe workplace and asserted claims of negligent hiring and supervision, among other things. The defendant moved to dismiss the aforementioned claims on the grounds that they were barred by the exclusivity provision of the Act.

The Exclusivity Provision of the Act

The court agreed with the defendant’s assertion and granted its motion to dismiss. The court noted that the exclusivity provision of the Act is a comprehensive preemption that precludes injured workers from pursuing tort actions that arise out of employment related injuries that are compensable through the payment of workers’ compensation benefits under the Act. Continue reading →

People involved in catastrophic workplace accidents often suffer not only physical harm but mental injuries as well. Thus, if they seek damages for their losses, they may have to undergo medical examinations to evaluate their physical and cognitive detriments. Typically, only physicians can conduct such examinations. Recently, a Massachusetts court evaluated whether neuropsychologists are considered doctors for the purpose of such examinations in a case in which the plaintiff sought damages for harm sustained in a workplace accident. If you suffered injuries at work, you might be able to recover benefits and pursue claims against third parties, and it is smart to meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to assess your options.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff suffered critical injuries while working on a construction site. His co-conservators subsequently filed both a workers’ compensation claim seeking benefits from the plaintiff’s employer and a civil lawsuit seeking damages from the general contractor for the site on the plaintiff’s behalf. According to the report of a neuropsychologist, the plaintiff suffered from cognitive and physical deficits as a result of the accident.

Reportedly, the defendant’s neuropsychologist disagreed with the plaintiff’s assertion after reviewing his medical records, and the defendant moved to have the plaintiff undergo an independent medical examination. The plaintiff objected to the motion on the grounds that the neuropsychologist was not a physician and therefore was precluded from examining the plaintiff pursuant to Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 35. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue reading →

In Massachusetts, if an employee dies due to a fatal work accident, their family members can often recover survivor benefits pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). Only the survivors of deceased employees are owed such benefits, however. In other words, family members of independent contractors, volunteers, and other non-employees are not eligible for such benefits. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what factors they analyze in determining whether a person is an employee as defined by the Act. If you lost a loved one in a workplace accident, you may be owed benefits, and you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that a worker died a work-related death. His wife was subsequently awarded workers’ compensation survivor benefits in a claim against his employer and the employer’s insurance company. The insurer appealed the decision of the Department of Industrial Accidents reviewing board, which affirmed the decision of the administrative judge. The insurer argued, in part, that the administrative judge erred in determining that the worker was an employee as defined by the Act.

Determining if a Person is an Employee as Defined by the Act

Under Massachusetts law, the question of a person’s employment status within the meaning of the Act is essentially a question of fact for the board. As such, it should not be set aside if it is supported by the evidence. Further, the determinations of the weight to grant the evidence, credibility assessments, and findings of fact are the sole function of administrative judges. Thus, the courts grant weight to their specialized knowledge, experience, and technical competence. Continue reading →

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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