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Massachusetts Court Assesses Third-Party Claims Following Injuries at Work

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), people who are hurt at work are typically barred from pursuing civil claims against their employers in exchange for the right to recover workers’ compensation benefits. The Act does not prohibit employees from seeking damages from other parties that may be responsible for their harm, however. Recently, a Massachusetts court analyzed the right to pursue third-party claims following a work injury in a case in which it ultimately granted the plaintiff the right to pursue contractual indemnification claims. If you were hurt while working, it is wise to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff was working when he suffered injuries to his lower body. Specifically, he was hurt when a dumpster he was emptying toppled onto him. The dumpster was manufactured and sold by the defendant. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, and the defendant filed an answer. Two months later, the defendant moved to join a third party as a defendant.

It is reported that the defendant alleged the plaintiff was employed by the third party at the time of the incident and the third party was responsible for servicing the dumpster. The defendant further asserted that it had an agreement with the third party in which the third party agreed to indemnify the defendant. The third-party opposed the motion arguing that it was futile.

Third-Party Claims Following Injuries at Work

Under Massachusetts law, a defendant in a civil lawsuit may serve a complaint on a non-party who may be partially or solely liable to the plaintiff. A defendant acting as a third-party plaintiff, however, must obtain leave of court to file such a complaint if more than fourteen days have passed since it filed its answer to the plaintiff’s complaint.

In such instances, the decision of whether to grant such leave is within the purview of the district court. The courts should allow joinder on any viable claim of derivative liability that will not cause undue prejudice or delay in the ongoing proceedings. In the subject case, the district court found that the defendant presented a colorable contractual indemnification; as such, it granted the defendant’s motion for leave with regard to that cause of action. The court denied the defendant’s motion as to the common law indemnification claim, however, noting that the plaintiff’s acceptance of workers’ compensation benefits from the third party precluded the claim.

Meet with a Capable Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

People injured on the job can often recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employers, and in some cases, they may be able to pursue claims against other parties as well. If you have questions regarding your rights following an accident at work, it is smart to meet with an attorney.    James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a capable Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who can inform you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or by using the form online to set up a meeting.