Massachusetts Court Discusses Assault Pay in Workers’ Compensation Claims

The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides that employees who are hurt while working can recover medical benefits and wage loss benefits for losses related to their harm. In some instances, other benefits may be available as well. For example, as discussed in a recent Massachusetts ruling, in some instances, assault pay could be recoverable in some cases. If you were hurt while working, it is advisable to talk to a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation attorney regarding what benefits you may be owed.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the plaintiff, a court officer, filed a complaint in alleging debilitating injuries sustained on multiple occasions dating back to 1998 while on the job. In count one, Howard sought “assault pay” to compensate for the difference between his workers’ compensation payments and his salary. In count two, he sought additional damages and attorney’s fees under the Wage Act, due to the Commonwealth’s failure to provide assault pay. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, leading to the plaintiff’s appeal.

Assault Pay for Work-Related Harm

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling in part and reversed it in part. As to the first count, the court noted that the trial court dismissed it on statute of limitations grounds, which the defendant later admitted was an error. The defendant, however, argued for the dismissal on the alternative ground that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Specifically, the defendant contended that the injuries the plaintiff suffered, for which he was eligible for workers’ compensation, did not fall under the assault pay statute’s coverage.

The court reviewed the complaint’s allegations, which detailed multiple injuries sustained due to physical or violent acts by prisoners under the plaintiff’s custody and the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation application. Despite discrepancies between the two, the court found the complaint sufficient to establish a claim for assault pay, stating that the completed application form did not negate the allegations of prisoner violence. As such, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by incidents involving violent prisoners, allowing his claim to proceed.

As for count two, which invoked the Wage Act, the court noted the trial court dismissed it based on sovereign immunity. The plaintiff attempted to distinguish his case from precedent by arguing that it involved an assault pay claim rather than an overtime claim. The court found this distinction immaterial, though, and therefore affirmed the dismissal of count two based on the reasoning that court officers injured while working in courthouses do not fit within the statutory terms for a waiver of sovereign immunity under the Wage Act.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Depending on the severity and duration of their impairment, injured workers may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for temporary or permanent disability; in some instances, they may be owed additional benefits as well. If you were hurt while working, you should meet with an attorney to assess your rights. Attorney James K. Meehan is an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who takes pride in helping injured workers seek justice, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or through our convenient online contact form to arrange a confidential meeting.