Massachusetts Court Discusses the Exclusivity of the Workers’ Compensation Act

It is well-established that the Massachusetts workers’ compensation act (the Act) affords people the right to recover benefits from their employers for work-related harm. If an employer or their insurer unjustly denies an employee benefits, the employee may be able to pursue claims against them. They must do so within the workers’ compensation framework, however, as demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts opinion. If you suffered injuries at work, it is prudent to contact a  Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to determine your options for seeking justice.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff worked as a chemist for the employer. In 2013, he suffered injuries when he was exposed to toxic chemicals when working due to poor ventilation in his work area. He subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim, despite efforts to dissuade him from doing so. He asserted that his employer’s workers’ compensation attorney mishandled his claim and wrongfully refused to pay him benefits, however. As such, he filed a civil lawsuit against them, asserting unfair trade practices and defamation claims. The defendants moved for dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint, arguing his claims were barred by the exclusivity provision of the Act.

The Exclusivity of the Act

The court agreed with the defendants’ reasoning and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. Specifically, the court stated that all of the plaintiff’s claims were precluded because his sole remedy was through the Act. The court explained that it was undisputed that the plaintiff was an employee of the employer, he suffered harm that constituted a personal injury as defined by the Act, and it occurred during the course of his employment.

The plaintiff alleged that he exhausted his administrative remedies prior to filing his lawsuit and, therefore, should be permitted to proceed with his claim. The court noted this reasoning relied on a misapprehension of the law, as the Act did not require claimants to exhaust their administrative options prior to pursuing civil claims. Instead, it completely barred civil claims that arose out of harm sustained by employees in the workplace.

In other words, to the extent that the plaintiff sought compensation for his underlying harm, his claims were precluded by the Act. The court ruled that the plaintiff’s claims alleging that his workers’ compensation claim was mishandled by his employer’s insurer were prohibited under the Act as well. As such, it dismissed his claims.

Speak to a Trusted Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Employers and their insurers will sometimes refuse to pay injured employees workers’ compensation benefits they are rightfully owed, but fortunately, there are measures employees can take to protect their rights in such instances. If you were hurt at work and you believe your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer is mishandling your claim, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a capable Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help you seek the best legal result available. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or by using the form online to set up a conference.