Proving a Claim is Precluded by the Exclusivity Provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act

Generally, while people hurt on the job can recover workers’ compensation benefits under Massachusetts law, they are precluded from pursuing civil claims against their employers. As such, if an injured employee files negligence claims against their employer, the employer may respond by filing a motion to dismiss. When parties ask the court to dismiss a claim at the onset of a case via a motion to dismiss, the courts are limited to evaluating the assertions set forth in the complaint. Thus, it is improper for an employer to rely on extrinsic materials to support their argument. This was demonstrated recently in a Massachusetts ruling in which the appellate court reversed a trial court ruling due to the fact that it relied on improper evidence. If you were hurt at work, you have the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits, and you should speak to a Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible.

The Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff was employed by the defendant through a staffing agency and worked in one of the defendant’s facilities. When he was cleaning a work area, his hand got caught in a machine, causing him to sustain injuries. OSHA conducted an investigation after the accident, which revealed that another worker had removed the safety guard on the machine and neglected to replace it. OSHA also concluded that the defendant created the hazard and holds oversight over the employees.

Reportedly, the plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation claim and received benefits from the staffing agency’s insurer. He subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the defendant, alleging its negligence caused his harm. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim and attached numerous documents to its motion that showed the plaintiff waived the right to pursue any claims covered by workers’ compensation laws. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Proving a Claim is Precluded by the Exclusivity Provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act

On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that, generally, a court evaluating a motion to dismiss may consider the plaintiff’s complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and items that appear in the case record. It cannot consider any other materials, though, including documents attached to the motion to dismiss. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court improperly relied on the documents attached to the defendant’s motion to dismiss in deciding to rule in its favor. Thus, it reversed the ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

People injured while working have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits from their employers, but they are generally precluded from seeking civil damages. If you were hurt at work, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. 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 a just outcome, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact him by calling 508-822-6600 or using the online form to set up a conference.