Massachusetts Court Discusses Claims Barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act

The two key components of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) are the protections it offers employers who suffer injuries while working and the prohibitions against those same employees seeking damages in tort actions against their employers. The courts broadly construe the exclusivity provision of the Act and will dismiss any claim that runs afoul of the provision, as shown in a recent Massachusetts case. If you sustained losses due to a workplace injury, it is in your best interest to consult a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about your options for seeking redress.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked for the defendant at its car dealership. The plaintiff, who worked as a salesperson, suffered injuries when his immediate supervisor assaulted him. He subsequently filed a lawsuit against his supervisor and the defendant, seeking compensation for his harm. As to the defendant, he asserted it was vicariously liable for the acts of the supervisor; he set forth negligent hiring and supervision claims against the defendant as well. Following discovery, the defendant moved for dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims on the grounds that they were barred by the exclusivity provision of the Act. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Claims Barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act

The exclusivity provision is both broadly construed and the keystone of the Act. The court explained that the legislature has had ample chances to narrow the scope of the provision over the years but has declined to do so.

While the Act does not automatically prohibit employees from pursuing claims against their employer for workplace harm, it does dictate that in order to do so, an employee must waive their right to workers’ compensation benefits when they are hired and must inform their employer of the waiver in writing.

Absent such a waiver, an employee’s tort action against an employer will be barred if the plaintiff is proven to be an employee, the condition that they suffered is considered a personal injury within the ambit of the Act, and the evidence demonstrates that the injury arose in the course of and out of their employment. In the subject case, the court explained that it was undisputed that the plaintiff was an employee of the defendant and that his injury happened out of and in the course of his employment. Further, his harm constituted personal injuries as defined by the Act. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Talk to an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

People injured in work accidents typically cannot pursue civil claims against their employer for their losses, but they can recover workers’ compensation benefits for their medical costs and lost wages. If you were hurt at work, it is wise to talk to an attorney about your rights. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney who can assess the facts of your case and help you to seek the best legal result available. You can reach Mr. Meehan to set up a conference by using the form online or by calling him at 508-822-6600.