Massachusetts Court Discusses Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In Massachusetts, employers are required to provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees who sustain work-related harm, pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). While generally it is clear whether an employee qualifies for benefits under the Act, in some cases, an employee’s rights are less certain. For example, in a recent Massachusetts ruling, a court examined whether a person working in Massachusetts for a Canadian consulate was entitled to benefits after she was injured at work. If you were injured while working, you might be able to recover benefits, and you should contact a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the claimant is a United States citizen that lives in Massachusetts. She previously worked as an administrative assistant for the Canadian Consulate in Boston. In 2009, she suffered an injury when she tripped and fell while working. She subsequently sued Canada for workers’ compensation benefits under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. The trial court dismissed her complaint after concluding that Canada was immune from liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The claimant then appealed.

Eligibility for Benefits Under the Act

On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that while the FSIA did largely provide immunity to foreign countries, there were exceptions. For example, parties could pursue claims that arise out of commercial activity. In evaluating whether a course of conduct or transaction is commercial in nature, as the term is defined by the FSIA, the court does not focus on whether the foreign entity undertook the action with the intent of making a profit.

Instead, the court will assess whether the actions the foreign entity engaged in are of the type a private individual performs to participate in trade or commerce. In the subject case, the court found that the claimant suffered injuries while performing routine administrative duties for the Canadian consulate. The court determined that such tasks constituted commercial activity within the meaning of the FSIA. As such, the commercial activity exception to FSIA applied, and the claimant was not barred from pursuing her claims. Further, the court found that the claimant’s claims were not barred by issue preclusion because of a prior proceeding in which the Department of Industrial Accidents determined that the Canadian consulate did not qualify as an uninsured employer under the Massachusetts Workers’ Trust Fund. Thus, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Seasoned Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

People who are hurt at work are often entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, regardless of whether their employers are insured. If you were injured at work, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer, and if you sustained injuries in the workplace, he can help you pursue any available benefits. You can reach him by calling 508-822-6600 or using the online form to set up a meeting.