Massachusetts Court Discusses Third-Party Liability for Work Accidents

People injured while working can often recover workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. Typically, however, they are precluded from pursuing civil claims against their employers pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). In some cases, they may be able to recover damages from parties other than their employer, though; to do so, they must establish liability. Recently, a Massachusetts court examined what a plaintiff must prove to recover compensation in a third-party claim arising out of a work accident. If you were injured on the job, you might be owed benefits and damages, and it is advisable to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff was working on a residential construction site when he fell off of a scaffold. He sustained injuries to his left foot and knee in the fall. He then commenced a lawsuit against the general contractor for the project, alleging its negligence caused him harm. After the plaintiff presented his case at the bench trial held in the matter, the defendant moved for involuntary dismissal, arguing that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care and, therefore, could not be deemed liable for his losses. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Plaintiff’s Claims

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff setting forth a negligence claim must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, the defendant breached the duty, the plaintiff sustained damages, and a causal connection between the harm suffered and the defendant’s breach. Usually, a general contractor will not be liable for physical harm suffered by the employee of a subcontractor.

There are exceptions, though, that will allow for the imposition of fault. In other words, if the general contractor directs the work of the subcontractor’s employee, furnishes equipment for the work, or retains control over any portion of the work, it may be deemed responsible. In the subject case, the trial court found that the defendant did not exercise adequate control over the work performed by the plaintiff for the imposition of liability under a theory of retained control.

The plaintiff did not dispute this finding but argued that the defendant owed it a nondelegable duty to comply with building codes and state safety regulations. The court noted that the plaintiff did not plead this theory or offer any evidence in support of it prior to the appeal. Thus, the court rejected the argument.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

There are often numerous parties responsible for ensuring the safety of people working on construction sites, and if they fail to uphold their duties, they may be deemed accountable for any losses that ensue. If you suffered injuries while working due to the negligence of someone other than your employer, you may be able to recover compensation from multiple sources, and you should meet with an attorney. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer with the skills and resources needed to help you seek the full extent of damages available under the law. You can contact Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or by using the form online to set up a conference.