Massachusetts Court Analyzes the Intersection of Workers’ Compensation and Tort Claims

It is not uncommon for a person to suffer injuries while working due to the negligent acts of their coworker. In such instances, the injured party may seek to recover both workers’ compensation benefits and civil damages. Whether they are owed both depends on numerous factors, though, as discussed in a recent Massachusetts ruling issued in a case in which a police officer was injured during on-the-job training. If you were harmed due to the negligence of a co-worker, you could be owed workers’ compensation benefits, and it is wise to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney concerning your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff, a police officer, was attending firearm training that was conducted by a co-worker. During a paid break, the co-worker got into his car and began to drive toward the gun range. He accelerated and lost control of his vehicle and ultimately struck the plaintiff, pinning him against a picnic table. The plaintiff filed a claim for benefits under GL 152, which were akin to workers’ compensation benefits for police officers injured in the line of duty. His claim was approved.

Allegedly, the plaintiff subsequently sent a written demand letter to the town’s insurer, arguing that his co-worker’s negligence caused him to suffer harm and, therefore, the insurer owed him damages. The insurer rejected his demand, arguing that the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (the Act) precluded him from recovering damages. It then filed a declaratory judgment action. The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff, and the insurer appealed.

The Intersection of Workers’ Compensation and Tort Claims

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling. Specifically, it noted that the Act provided immunity to public employees for harm that they cause while acting within the scope of their employment. The courts will assess numerous factors to determine if a party is within the scope of their employment at the time of an incident, including whether their acts furthered the employer’s work and the principles of agency and vicarious liability. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the co-worker was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Specifically, his actions were not related to his employment and had no relation to the employer’s work. As such, the appellate court found that the immunity provisions of the Act did not apply, and it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Talk to an Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

People injured by the careless acts of their coworkers may be able to recover both benefits and damages. If you sustained injuries at work, you should talk to an attorney about your options for redress. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help you seek the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact him by calling 508-822-6600 or using the online form to set up a conference.