Massachusetts Court Rules Injured Parties Can Pursue Workers’ Compensation and Tort Claims

Under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation act, if a person is injured at work he or she can seek workers’ compensation benefits. Even if a person recovers benefits, he or she is still permitted to file a third-party negligence claim against the individual that caused his or her harm, as illustrated in a recent case decided by a Massachusetts Appellate Court.

Additionally, the court explained that the Massachusetts workers’ compensation act prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for pursuing a tort claim.  If you were harmed in a work-related injury, you should meet with a trusted Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to evaluate your case and assess your avenues for seeking recovery of compensation.

Facts Regarding Plaintiff’s Employment

Reportedly, the plaintiff was hired by a temp agency to work at the defendant manufacturing facility. While working there, the plaintiff was injured when one of the defendant’s employee’s negligent operation of a forklift caused metal sheets to fall on her foot. The plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation claim with the temp agency and received benefits. She was then hired as a full-time employee by the defendant. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant and its employee for the harm suffered in the accident, alleging theories of negligence and respondeat superior. The defendant then terminated the plaintiff, stating the lawsuit as the cause of her termination. The plaintiff amended her lawsuit to include a claim for retaliatory termination. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the case in its entirety which the trial court granted. The plaintiff appealed. 

Rights Afforded Under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act

On appeal, the appeals court vacated the trial court ruling. The court noted that historically, a person injured at work had to choose between filing a workers’ compensation claim and filing a third party lawsuit. An amendment to the Massachusetts workers’ compensation act in 1971, however, allowed for an injured party to pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a tort claim against the negligent party.  Thus, the court found that the trial court erred in ruling the plaintiff’s claim was precluded by her recovery of workers’ compensation benefits.

Further, the court noted the workers’ compensation act specifically prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory action for exercising any right under the act. The court held that as the workers’ compensation act specifically granted injured workers the right to pursue a third party claim, an employer could not take adverse action against an employee for filing a civil lawsuit following a work injury. As such, the court found the plaintiff could proceed with her retaliatory termination claim as well.

Set Up a Consultation with a Seasoned Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you suffered an injury at work, you may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to pursue a third party negligence claim as well. You should meet with a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your options for seeking damages. The workers’ compensation attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you seek the full extent of damages you may be owed. You can reach us at 508-822-6600 to set up a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Reviewing Board Explains Difference Between Wear and Tear and Compensable Injuries in Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Claims, January 16, 2019, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog