Massachusetts Court Dicusses Work-Related Illnesses

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) provides that people hurt at work have the right to seek benefits from their employer. Notably, this right extends not only to people hurt in accidents but also to those that develop illnesses or injuries due to exposure to harmful substances. Regardless of the type of injury a claimant suffers from, though, they must establish that it was caused by workplace conditions or activities in order to recover workers’ compensation benefits, as demonstrated in an opinion recently issued by a Massachusetts court. If you contracted an illness due to exposure to unsafe substances at work, you should consult a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss whether you may be able to recover benefits.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits from his employer, which was self-insured. In support of his claim, the plaintiff alleged that he sustained a work-related lung injury while performing his duties as an HVAC technician for the employer. The employer contested liability, arguing that the employee did not establish that his injury was caused by work conditions.

It is reported that an administrative judge of the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) awarded the plaintiff some benefits but not others, and both parties appealed. Following a hearing during which doctors and an independent medical examiner testified, the judge issued a decision in favor of the plaintiff. The employer appealed, and on appeal, the reviewing board of the DIA reversed the administrative judge’s ruling, finding that the employee failed to show his lung injury was causally related to his work. The plaintiff appealed.

Establishing the Elements of a Workers’ Compensation Claim

On appeal, the reviewing board’s decision was upheld. The court explained that the reviewing board will only reverse an administrative judge’s decision if it finds it to be beyond the scope of their authority, capricious, arbitrary, or contrary to the law. The court further noted that an employee bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, each element of their claim for benefits, including the connection between their claimed injured and workplace conditions.

An employee’s claim will be denied if any critical element of the claim is left to speculation or otherwise lacks evidentiary support. In the subject case, the court found that the administrative judge failed to make precise rulings about the date of exposure, the alleged injury, and dates of treatment in light of inconsistent testimony and that their decision lacked evidentiary support. Thus, it found that the plaintiff failed to meet his burden of proof and affirmed the reviewing board’s decision.

Talk to an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

Harmful substances can cause critical injuries, and people that sustain illnesses due to exposure to such substances in the workplace may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. If you developed an illness because of workplace conditions, it is smart to talk to an attorney about what benefits you may be owed. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who is adept at helping injured workers protect their interests, and if you engage his services, he will diligently pursue any benefits you may be owed. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or through our online form to set up a conference.