Massachusetts Court Dicusses Tort Claims Against Employers

In Massachusetts, people hurt at work can typically recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employer. The right to recover such benefits precludes them from pursuing tort claims for their harm, however. The parameters of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) was the topic of a recent Massachusetts ruling in which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s emotional distress claim. If you suffered injuries while working, you should meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was employed by the defendant from January 2014 to January  2015. He regularly organized “speaker meetings” where doctors would meet with patients to discuss illnesses and the defendant’s products. These meetings, held at least once a year, often had the same information and recurring attendees. Standard slides were provided to physicians for these meetings.

Allegedly, In October 2014, a meeting was held. Only two families attended, and both families stated they did not want to see the slides as they had seen them before. The plaintiff submitted a report afterward indicating that the slides were not shown. He was then terminated for cause, specifically, the failure to comply with the “mandatory” requirement of showing the slides at the October 18 meeting. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for emotional distress and other losses. The defendant removed the case to federal based on diversity jurisdiction and filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s amended complaint, arguing that the exclusivity clause of the Act barred the plaintiff’s emotional distress claims.

Tort Claims Against Employers

The court adopted the defendant’s reasoning and dismissed the plaintiff’s emotional distress claims. In doing so, it explained that the Act was established to replace tort actions by providing a standardized statutory remedy for injured workers. It aims to create a comprehensive system rather than a fragmented, tort-based approach. According to the Act’s exclusivity provision, if an employee fails to provide written notice to their employer indicating their intent to retain the right to pursue common law tort claims, they are deemed to have waived their right to such actions.

In this case, the plaintiff did not allege that he provided the defendant with written notice to preserve his right to pursue common law tort claims. Therefore, his claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, which would typically be compensable under the Act, are barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Act. Legal precedents also support this outcome.

Confer with a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

The Act allows parties to recover benefits for work-related injuries, but it bars them from seeking damages in tort. If you were harmed while working, it is smart to speak to a lawyer about your options. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney with the skills and resources needed to help you seek a just outcome, and if he represents you, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Meehan to set up a meeting by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.