Massachusetts Court Rules Workers’ Compensation Claim File is Discoverable

People hurt while working can typically recover workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act). Typically, the process of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits involves the injured party filing a claim and the employer’s representative conducting an investigation, the results of which are documented in a claim file. While workers’ compensation claims files may contain sensitive information, it is unlikely that they are protected from disclosure via any privilege, as demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts ruling. If you were injured on the job, it is in your best interest to confer with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney to evaluate what benefits you may be able to recover.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is alleged the plaintiff suffered injuries while working for the defendant. He then filed a workers’ compensation claim, after which he received benefits. He then filed a product liability suit against the defendant, arguing that the defendant’s defective product caused his harm. The defendant then sought a motion to compel the plaintiff to provide its workers’ compensation file, which had been handed over to the plaintiff’s counsel by the workers’ compensation carrier for the plaintiff’s employer. The defendant argued that certain information obtained by an investigation agency on behalf of the workers’ compensation carrier was crucial to the case.

It is reported that the plaintiff’s counsel had already disclosed certain portions of the file, but nine categories of information were contested. Seven of these categories comprised data acquired by the investigation agency during their investigation on behalf of the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier. The plaintiff’s counsel acknowledged that no attorney-client privilege existed between them and the carrier at the time of the investigation.

Discoverability of Workers’ Compensation Files

Upon review, the court granted the motion to compel with regard to the seven categories of information obtained by the investigation agency, ruling that they were not protected by attorney-client privilege or by the qualified privilege for work product. The court emphasized that no attorney-client relationship existed between the plaintiff’s counsel and the workers’ compensation carrier at the time of the investigation, and therefore, no privilege applied.

Despite the subsequent formation of an attorney-client relationship prior to the initiation of litigation, the court held that the lack of such a relationship during the investigation nullified any privilege claims. Additionally, the court noted that precedent in the district contradicted the plaintiff’s position. Consequently, the motion to compel was allowed, and the plaintiff’s counsel was ordered to produce the specified items within a given timeframe.

Confer with a Seasoned Massachusetts Attorney

In the unfortunate event of a workplace injury, workers’ compensation benefits can be vital to an employee’s recovery. If you were hurt while working, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Attorney James K. Meehan is a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer who recognizes the complexities of navigating these claims and is committed to protecting our client’s rights. You can contact Attorney Meehan at 508-822-6600 or through our convenient online contact form to set up a confidential consultation.