Massachusetts Court Examines Third Party Liability for Work Accidents

In exchange for the right to recover worker’s compensation benefits, the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) generally precludes employees from pursuing civil claims for bodily harm against their employers. They can pursue claims against other parties that contributed to or caused their injuries, however. As with any civil claim, if a plaintiff seeking damages against a third party following a workplace accident cannot establish liability, their claim will be dismissed. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed what evidence is needed to prove a vessel is liable to an injured longshore worker in a matter in which it ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. If you suffered injuries at work, you might be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits and other damages, and it is smart to talk to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer experienced at handling complicated cases to discuss your rights.

The Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was working as a stevedore for a fishing company when she suffered injuries unloading boxes from the defendant’s ship. She subsequently filed a negligence claim against the defendant seeking damages for his losses. The defendant filed a third-party complaint against the fishing company, alleging that it negligently hired and trained the plaintiff. The fishing company moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the Act precluded the imposition of liability against it for the plaintiff’s harm. The defendant then moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s claims. The court ultimately granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the fishing company’s motion as moot.

Third-Party Liability for Work Accidents

The court noted that as the plaintiff alleged a negligence claim against the defendant, she was required to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant owed her a duty, a breach of that duty, injury sustained by the plaintiff, and a causal link between the defendant’s acts and her injury.

If the plaintiff produced evidence sufficient to meet this burden, the burden would then shift to the defendant, who would have to establish their lack of knowledge and privity. The court explained that a vessel will only be deemed liable to a longshore worker when it breached a duty owed to the worker, either acting individually or in conjunction with the worker. In the subject case, the parties disagreed as to the standard of care imposed on the defendant. The court found that under either standard, however, the plaintiff failed to establish a breach. Thus, it dismissed her claims.

Consult a Skilled Massachusetts Attorney

While employees typically cannot recover damages from their employers for injuries that happen at work, they may be able to recover compensation from other parties. If you sustained injuries in an accident while working, you might be owed workers’ compensation benefits and other damages, and it is smart to consult an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a skilled Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or via the form online to set up a conference.