Court Discusses Claims Barred by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act

Under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), employers have an obligation to provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees that suffer injuries while working. IN exchange for the right to recover such benefits, however, employees are precluded from filing civil claims seeking damages for personal injuries against their employers. The Massachusetts courts strictly construe the exclusivity provisions of the Act and will dismiss any claims barred by the exclusivity provision, as illustrated in a recent Massachusetts opinion. If you were injured in a work-related activity, you could be owed benefits, and it would be advantageous for you to consult a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your options.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was diagnosed with legionnaire’s disease in December 2014 because of exposure to contaminated water in the workplace following an industrial accident in which a compressor exploded, distributing water vapor and dust into the air. His illness was promptly reported to the Massachusetts Department of Health and Public Safety (MDHPS), and he submitted a claim to the Department of Industrial Accidents.

The plaintiff alleged that his employer, the MDHPS, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were required to conduct an investigation which meant, in part, that they had to collect and analyze water samples but failed to do so. As such, he asserted claims against them in a civil lawsuit, arguing that they failed to protect his safety and that of his coworkers and violated his civil rights. The defendant employer moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, arguing that they were barred by the Act.

Claims Barred by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act

The court ruled in favor of the defendant employer and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against it. The defendant employer relied upon the exclusivity provision of the Act in seeking dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. The court explained that under said provision, it is clear that the Act was drafted to replace tort actions by offering a statutory remedy for injured workers that was uniform in nature rather than forcing them to rely on piecemeal recoveries through tort.

Thus, under the Act, employees waive their right to pursue common law remedies for any injury that is compensable under the Act unless they provide their employers with notice reserving such rights. In the subject case, the court found that on review of the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint, on their face, his claims against his employer fell within the scope of the Act. Thus, it granted the defendant employer’s motion to dismiss.

Talk to a Knowledgeable Massachusetts Attorney

Massachusetts law protects employees who are hurt while working in that it allows them to recover benefits for their injuries. In most instances, though, they are precluded from recovering civil damages for their losses from their employers. If you were injured at work, it is prudent to speak with a lawyer about your rights. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a knowledgeable Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who can inform you of your options and aid you in seeking justice for your harm. You can reach Mr. Meehan via the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.