Massachusetts Court Discusses Jurisdiction Over Workers’ Compensation Claims

The Massachusetts legislature took measures to protect employees by passing the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). Under the Act, employers typically have to pay benefits to employees who sustain injuries while they are working. It is not uncommon, though, for employers or their insurers to attempt to avoid paying such benefits by arguing that the harm in question was not work-related. If the employer or insurer denies an employee benefits, the employee can employ the appeals process, but they must comply with the procedural requirements, otherwise their appeal may be denied, as shown in a recent Massachusetts opinion. If you were hurt while working, it is prudent to consult a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to determine your options.

Case Setting

It is reported that the plaintiff, representing himself, previously filed an unsuccessful claim with the Department of Industrial Accidents (D.I.A.) to reinstate discontinued workers’ compensation benefits. The benefits were terminated after the defendant, the plaintiff’s employer’s insurer,  obtained judicial approval to discontinue them. The plaintiff then filed the subject civil action in seeking to reclaim his discontinued workers’ compensation payments, bypassing the D.I.A. despite prior adverse rulings from both the D.I.A. and the Appeals Court on the same matter. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed under the doctrine of res judicata; the defendant further argued for dismissal on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims.

Jurisdiction Over Workers’ Compensation Claims

The court reviewed the case based on undisputed facts presented by the defendant’s and the plaintiff’s submissions. It ultimately agreed with the defendant’s arguments, finding that it lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim.

Specifically, the court stated that such claims must be adjudicated through the statutorily prescribed workers’ compensation system, with exclusive jurisdiction held by the D.I.A. The court also invoked the principles of issue and claim preclusion, known as res judicata, which prevented the relitigation of the same issues and claims previously adjudicated by the D.I.A. and the Appeals Court.

Additionally, the court referenced prior Massachusetts rulings affirming that the Superior Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over actions like the plaintiff’s, brought under the Act, for alleged violations of the law relating to unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices regarding the business of insurance, regarding workers’ compensation benefits. Consequently, the court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing all counts of the plaintiff’s complaint.

Meet with a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

If you were injured while working, you may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits from your employer or their insurer, and it is smart to talk to an attorney to ensure your rights are protected. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who understands what it takes to prevail in workers’ compensation claims, and if you hire him, he will fight to help you seek any benefits you may be owed. You can reach him to arrange a meeting through the online contact form or by calling him at 508-822-6600.