Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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guard towerIn an opinion published earlier this month, Flaherty v. Sheriff of Suffolk County, Mass. Sup. Jud. Ct. (2014), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had before it the issue of how assault pay for injured officers interacts with workers’ compensation benefits under Massachusetts Law.

The employee in the case, Flaherty, was working as a Suffolk County correction officer, when he was injured as a result of prisoner violence. The Department of Industrial Accidents found that he was partially disabled, and as a result awarded him workers’ compensation benefits, culminating in a lump sum settlement at the end of a several year period, which was agreed to. Flaherty then filed a claim in Superior Court at the end of the period, claiming that the Commonwealth was required to compensate him with assault pay during the period he had been receiving the workers’ compensation benefits.

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2 reportsTwo reports released this month have had some startling findings regarding the state of workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts and nationwide.

One report was conducted by a group called ProPublica, an investigative journalism organization, in conjunction with NPR. The other report was conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Both studies found an overall decline in the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that workers received, which was attributed to changes by lawmakers, and also suggested to have been a result of the lobbying actions on behalf of big businesses.

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handicap parkingThe Massachusetts Appeals Court recently reached a decision in the case of Litchfield’s Case, 86 Mass. App. Ct. 216 (2014), which is instructive on the matter of workers’ compensation awards for psychological complications arising out of work-related injuries.

In the case, Robert M. Litchfield had been working as a heavy equipment mechanic for his employer from 1984 until he suffered a serious industrial injury to his elbow and shoulder. Due to his pain and inability to work, which were a direct result of the physical injuries he suffered in the incident, as a result of his limitations, he developed psychiatric conditions, including anxiety and depression.

The administrative judge who initially heard Litchfield’s workers’ compensation claim for loss of psychiatric function denied his claim, finding that the benefits for loss of psychiatric function were not available to him. The reviewing board affirmed the decision, which Litchfield appealed.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a recent Massachusetts workers’ compensation case, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued a ruling on the propriety of an appellate panel reversing a commissioner’s decision in a complex medical case regarding whether continued disability benefits were proper.

In the opinion, In Re Villiard’s Case, Mass. App. Ct. (2014), the employee Villiard worked as an insulation specialist for the employer for 18 years. His duties included installing attic insulation, drilling holes into the sides of buildings, and removing vinyl. The job duties required him to lift heavy objects, climb ladders, and crawl through tight spaces. On the day of the incident, Villiard injured his back while carrying heavy tubes up a flight of stairs.

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quilt patternThe Massachusetts Court of Appeals made a ruling recently in a workers’ compensation case that sheds some light on what happens when new evidence regarding workers’ compensation injuries comes to light decades after the incident occurs.

In the case, In re Baillargeon’s Case, Mass. Ct. App. (2014), the employee Dorothy Baillargeon suffered an injury in 1978 during the course of her duties as a nurse at a Commonwealth hospital, when a patient kicked her in the left temple region of her head. As a result of emotional and physical symptoms, the employee pursued a workers’ compensation claim. The impartial medical examiner who examined her in 1984 concluded that the accident resulted in a contusion of the employee’s left temporal lobe, and that it caused post-concussion symptoms including hostility, emotional dysfunction, depression, and more. As a result, he concluded that she had no capacity for performance of employment duties. A psychologist concurred in the prognosis and classified the employee’s resultant incapacity for employment as total and permanent. She was thus deemed entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

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stairsIn a recent federal case, Cavicchi v. Raytheon Company, the district court had before it several issues arising out of an employment-related injury, which implicated the exclusivity of workers’ compensation benefits.

The case arose out of an incident in which the employee fell on a staircase at work and then went to the doctor. The employee then returned to work the next day. However, instead of being able to work, his employer told him that he was required to undergo a blood test, and he was suspended from work pending an investigation of some sort.

The employer additionally referred the plaintiff to two doctors on two separate occasions, and at each appointment, the plaintiff spoke to the doctors but was not examined physically. The employer then placed the employee on long term disability pay, roughly half of his normal salary. The employee consulted with his union director, who informed him that the employer may have used the purported disability as a pretense in order to suspend the plaintiff, since under his contract, the employer could not terminate the employee without cause.

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pillsThe Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently issued a brief decision in a workers’ compensation case, In re Okraska’s Case, Mass Ct. App. (2014), which may become problematic for employees living with back issues.

The case does not contain much factual information, but based on the discussion in the opinion, it seems the employee filing for the claim had some sort of underlying back injury or issue prior to the incident that occurred at work for which he was filing a claim.

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A recent decision by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts in In re Kelbe’s Case, Mass. Appeals Court (2014), offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the concept of the “Going and Coming Rule” in workers’ compensation cases, which precludes financial recovery in employee personal injury cases.MIT building

The opinion began with a review of the general rule that workers’ compensation is not generally available to compensate employees who are injured during the course of travel to and from work. As stated in a landmark case on the matter, Chernick’s Case, 286 Mass. 168, 172 (1934), ” It is now elementary that the compensation act does not extend to cover employees going to and coming from their work[.]”

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In 2011, the federal government launched a nationwide initiative with the goal of gaining states’ participation in a program that seeks to address the problem of worker misclassification. Misclassification occurs when employers classify employees as something else, such as an independent contractor. This can be a map of USproblem because independent contractors are not entitled to the same benefits as employees. Benefits that independent contractors are not entitled to receive  include workers’ compensation benefits.

Massachusetts signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” in November 2014, a voluntary non-binding agreement that it will work with the U.S. Department of Labor to reduce employee misclassification.

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first aid kitThe Massachusetts Appeals Court made a ruling in the recent case of Pagan v. Haddad, Mass. App. Ct. (2014), that illustrates the exclusivity of workers’ compensation payments under Massachusetts law.

In the case, the plaintiff employee had brought a civil suit against his employer due to an injury he sustained while in the course of his employment. At the time of his injury, the employer purportedly did not have workers’ compensation insurance for the employee, which is why he brought a civil lawsuit. (Remember, if an employee does not give an employer notice that he or she wishes to waive his or her workers’ compensation rights and retain his or her rights at common law, workers’ compensation is the sole remedy available in the case of an injury sustained during the course of employment.)

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