Court Discusses Negligence Claims and the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation Act

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), employees that suffer harm due to workplace conditions can seek workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. Generally, in exchange for the right to recover such benefits, they are barred from pursuing civil claims against their employers for such harm. They are not prohibited from asserting negligence claims against third parties that contributed to or caused their workplace injuries, however, as reiterated in a ruling recently issued by a Massachusetts court. If you were hurt while working, you could be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits and other damages, and it is in your best interest to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney about your options.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked for a company as a software engineer. The company was purchased by the defendant corporation, which continued to operate the company under its original name. The plaintiff was asked to sign a non-compete agreement when the defendant acquired the company but was not offered anything in exchange. Shortly before the defendant bought the company, the plaintiff was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. He informed his supervisor and the company human resources representative of his diagnosis.

It is reported that approximately a year later, the plaintiff’s supervisor asked him to work on a project that would allow the company to use third-party software; the plaintiff later learned that the goal of the project was to create competing software. The defendant later terminated the plaintiff for violating company policy and exposing the defendant to potential criminal liability. The plaintiff subsequently filed civil claims against the defendant. He then moved to amend his complaint to include claims for, among other things, negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Negligence Claims in the Context of the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation Act

The defendant objected to the plaintiff’s motion, arguing in part that it was futile because the exclusivity provision of the Act barred the plaintiff from pursuing civil claims against the defendant. The plaintiff countered that the Act did not bar his claims because the defendant was not his employer. The court agreed with the plaintiff and granted his motion to amend.

The court explained that the Act provides that employees waive the right to pursue damages for personal injuries from their employer if the Act otherwise provides compensation for such harm. The Massachusetts courts construe the exclusivity provision of the Act broadly and have found that it precludes claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. As the court found that the party that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s distress was not his employer, his claims were not barred by the Act. As such, it granted his motion.

Talk to an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

People hurt during the course of their employment have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits from their employers, and in some instances, they may be able to recover additional damages from other parties. If you sustained losses at work, you should talk to an attorney about what claims you may be able to pursue. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and aid you in seeking any benefits you may be owed. You can contact Mr. Meehan by using the form online or calling him at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.