Massachusetts Court Discusses Civil Claims Arising Out of Workplace Harm

Under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), employers must provide injured employees with workers’ compensation benefits. In exchange for such benefits, employees are barred from pursuing civil claims for damages arising out of workplace harm against their employers. As demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts case, though, the preclusion only applies to claims against direct employers, regardless of whether a party voluntarily pays an injured employee benefits. If you were hurt while working, it is advisable to meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to determine your options.

Case History

It is alleged that the plaintiff suffered a severe work-related injury while working for a masonry subcontractor at a construction. The plaintiff sought workers’ compensation benefits from the masonry subcontractor, which was uninsured, and subsequently received compensation from the defendant, the general contractor.

It is reported, however, that the plaintiff also initiated a lawsuit against the defendant, as well as the owner of the construction site, seeking compensation for his injuries. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff, having accepted workers’ compensation benefits, was precluded from pursuing a common law negligence claim against the defendant.

Civil Claims in the Context of Workers’ Compensation

When evaluating the plaintiff’s claims and the defendant’s motion, the court delved into the statutory framework of the Workers’ Compensation Act to determine whether the defendant, by paying workers’ compensation benefits to the plaintiff, was released from common law negligence claims.

Despite the absence of explicit precedent on the matter, the found that the defendant, as the general contractor, was obligated to pay workers’ compensation benefits the Act due to the masonry subcontractor’s lack of insurance. However, the court emphasized that the plaintiff was not the defendant’s direct employee, nor was the defendant insured for masonry subcontractor’s employees. Referring to § 23 of the Act, the court concluded that the defendant’s payment of workers’ compensation benefits did not release it from common law liability for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The court reasoned that such an interpretation aligned with the legislative intent of the Act to protect injured employees and ensure accountability in the workplace. Moreover, it noted that the defendant’s insurer could still pursue legal action against the masonry subcontractor to recover the compensation paid to the plaintiff. Consequently, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, allowing the plaintiff to proceed with his common-law negligence claim against the defendant.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

Suffering an injury on the job can leave people uncertain about their rights and options, and anyone hurt at work should meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Attorney James K. Meehan is an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation who possesses in-depth knowledge of workers’ compensation laws in Massachusetts, and if he represents you, he will advocate for your best interests. Whether they need guidance on filing a claim or assistance in navigating the process, he is here to help. You can reach out to Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or through our convenient online contact form to set up a confidential consultation.