Work Injury Case in Massachusetts Shows Why Proving All Elements Is Necessary To Recover Damages

To recover damages after a Massachusetts accident happens at work or in a public place, four things must be shown: duty, a breach of that duty, causation connecting the breach to the injuries, and the cost of those injuries. The first element of a personal injury case, duty, exists if the alleged at-fault party owed a duty under the law to the person who was injured. If the at-fault party fails to uphold their duty, like a reckless driver or a grocery store that left a spill on the floor, the party could be liable to anyone who suffers an injury that resulted from the breach. Once the injury is connected to the failure to uphold the duty by law, the costs associated with the injury must be shown to recover damages.

In Stefflin vs. Pinncon, LLC (14-P-1114), an injured construction worker pursued damages against the general contractor and first-tier subcontractor. The worker alleged that the contractor and subcontractor failed to provide a safe work environment. The injured worker was a drywall finisher and taper, but the other parties required him to use a scissor lift instead of a knuckle boom lift to access certain parts of the ceiling. The worker said he injured himself while using the scissor lift when he reached over the railing with the sander and heard a “pop,” suffering abdominal pain. He later underwent surgery for a large ventral hernia and suffered complications from that and additional surgeries. The worker could not return to work and claimed permanent disability.

At trial, the judge excluded results from an Independent Medical Examination (IME) from the evidence of the injuries the worker suffered. The judge ruled that they were merely cumulative of the expert and medical evidence. When the case went to the jury, the jury determined that the general contractor and subcontractor did not fail to provide a safe work environment and therefore were not negligent. Because of this finding, the jury found for the defendants, and the injured worker did not recover damages from the general contractor and subcontractor.

In its review, the Appeals Court failed to agree with the injured worker’s argument that the IME evidence excluded from the trial was part of the reason the jury failed to find the defendants negligent. The court went back to the elements of a personal injury suit and said that the medical evidence related to the injury did not assist in any determination of whether there was a breach of duty by the defendants. The Appeals Court agreed that the exclusion of evidence was appropriate under the judge’s discretion, and it affirmed the verdict of the trial court.

The Massachusetts workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the experience you need to fully litigate your work injury claims. As in this case, several remedies may be available through workers’ compensation and the civil court system. Our office can help you pursue all avenues of legal relief. Call today at 508.822.6600.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruling Allows Injured Couple to Keep Millions in Awarded Damages, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, September 28, 2015
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Affirms Multi-million Dollar Verdict in Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Suit, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, September 15, 2015