Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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The Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently affirmed a decision of the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board, In re Wicklow’s Case, 32 N.E.3d 369 (2015), which found that an employer’s acts caused the exacerbation of an employee’s pre-existing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As such, the employee was awarded workers’ compensation benefits under § 34 for temporary total incapacity.healthcare-upclose-1322372-640x480

The employee had a tragic history. Due to a traumatic personal background and family life, she suffered from PTSD and was diagnosed in the late 1990s. She started working as a dialysis nurse for her employer in 2000. Although the employee had been hospitalized in the past when her PSTD was triggered on other previous, non-work-related occasions, by 2005 her condition was stable.

A new supervisor was appointed in 2006, and the employee became distressed after several triggering workplace incidents occurred involving her new supervisor. In May 2009, the employee received a three-day disciplinary suspension, and she took six weeks of medical leave. She then filed for § 34 benefits, alleging that she sustained work-related emotional injuries as the result of at least 10 encounters with her supervisor, beginning in 2006 through May 2009.

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The Appeals Court of Massachusetts issued a recent opinion, In re Gayle’s case, 87 Mass.App.Ct. 1129 (2015), affirming the reviewing board’s decision to deny benefits in a workers’ compensation case.hospital-1244754-639x427

On appeal was the issue of whether new medical opinions offered by the employee could overcome the preclusive effect of a prior decision from 2008, in which his benefits claim was denied for the same injury. The court also considered the employee’s argument that an error in the administrative judge’s opinion compelled reversal.

In July 2008, an administrative judge had denied the employee’s claim for permanent and total disability for an injury stemming from an industrial accident. At the hearing, both the employer and the employee presented expert medical testimony regarding MRI scans he had taken in 2004 and 2008. That decision was appealed, and the denial was affirmed by the reviewing board and the Appeals Court.

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box-1301543-mIn a recently released opinion, In re Richards’s case, App. Ct. Mass. (2015), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts had before it an issue of whether the doctrine of res judicata barred the employee’s claim. The case stemmed from an alleged injury that occurred in December 2003.

In May 2005, the employee had filed a workers’ compensation claim, which was heard by an administrative judge, and an opinion that was written stated that the employee had failed to meet the burden of proof required to establish that she sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of her employment. She was unable to establish that lifting boxes contributed to her injury, or rather that she suffered subsequent disability from employment. The decision in that case was affirmed by an appellate board and affirmed again by the Appeals Court.

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old-melbourne-goal-1443854-mIn a recent opinion, Marchand v. Department of Correction, Mass. App. Ct. (2015), the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently heard an appeal from a trial court decision, which found that the plaintiff was entitled to continue to receive assault pay benefits for as long as he also received workers’ compensation benefits. The issue stemmed from a disagreement regarding whether the employer was required to continuing paying assault benefits, which would amount to the plaintiff’s full salary, even though he was no longer employed by the state.

The plaintiff was employed as a correctional officer when he attempted to prevent an inmate from assaulting another officer, resulting in an injury to himself. The plaintiff thereafter applied for and was granted workers’ compensation benefits, in the form of temporary total disability benefits for a period of several months and partial disability benefits for a period of five years thereafter.

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isolation-goods-308470-mAccording to a statement made by the Massachusetts Attorney General this week, the owner of an asbestos abatement company was allegedly indicted this month and will face arraignment next month in connection with purportedly failing to report the nature of his company’s work accurately, in order to avoid having to pay thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

The business owner was indicted on six counts of larceny over $250 and six counts of workers’ compensation fraud. He was reportedly the sole owner of the business in question. At this time, it is unclear whether any employees were denied worker’s compensation on the basis of his actions.

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soccer-ball-1434014-mAlthough all workers’ compensation benefits require that the injury occur during the course of employment, injuries do not necessarily have to be physical in order to be compensable. Benefits can also be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the injury.

Workers’ compensation benefits used to require a physical element in order to be compensable, but mental injuries can potentially entitle injured employees to benefits as well. Often, while there doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical injury that occurs concurrently with the mental injury, there is typically a minimum requirement of some sort of contact.

Workers’ compensation benefits can be available in instances of extreme workplace stress. However, in order to be compensable, the stress must be so extreme that it goes beyond the ordinary day-to-day stress that employees are typically exposed to. Additionally, there must be a connection between the stress and the alleged injury.

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untitled-1398488-mThe Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently had before it an appeal from the decision of an administrative judge regarding a workers’ compensation benefit claim.

In the case, In Re Hines’s Case, Mass. App. Ct. (2015), the plaintiff, an employee who had been working as a personal care attendant, slipped and broke his right ankle. The injury required surgeries to put in place and later remove orthodontic hardware.

The employee applied for and received temporary total incapacity workers’ compensation benefits. Two years later, after conducting surveillance regarding the case, the insurer moved to terminate the employee’s benefits. At that time, the employee attempted to include a psychiatric claim.

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justice-srb-1-1040136-mIn another recent proposal to reform Massachusetts workers’ compensation law, the Massachusetts Legislature recently held a hearing in which it heard testimony regarding a change that is designed to increase access to workers’ compensation benefits and medical care for injured workers.

The proposal, Senate Bill 976, is designed to help low-wage workers by making interpreters and transportation to the doctor expenses the responsibility of the insurer. The Labor and Workforce Development Committee heard testimony by an attorney from a local organization in support of the bill.

In addition to making medical benefits more accessible, the bill would also lead to the increase of workers’ compensation benefits, since it would require the insurer and judge to take into account Massachusetts’ minimum wage and overtime laws when reaching a determination regarding the worker’s average weekly rate.

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slip and fallIn a concise opinion, the Massachusetts Appeals Court confirmed a lower court ruling regarding a wrongful termination following the commencement of a legal action related to a compensable workers’ compensation claim.

At issue in Santarpia v. Senior Residential Care, Mass. App. Ct. (2014), was an employee’s allegation that she was wrongfully terminated in contravention of public policy as retaliation for pursuing compensation following an at-work injury.

The plaintiff, a nurse, slipped and fell on some water that was leaking from a ceiling where she worked. Following the accident, she filed a workers’ compensation claim and received benefits. Two years later, she contacted an attorney regarding the case and was referred to a third attorney.

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granite2-1204751-mIn a recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case, Galvao v. Lowe, Mass. App. Ct. (2014), the court ruled to affirm a summary judgment motion that was granted on behalf of the defendant in a case where the plaintiff was seeking damages in lieu of workers’ compensation benefits.

The case involved a worker who was reportedly injured during the course of his work for a granite company. While the complete facts of the case were not included in the opinion, the plaintiff sued presumably his employer, and also his employer’s girlfriend, who later became his wife, for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance. The subject of this particular appeal was as to the liability of the girlfriend/wife.

The plaintiff alleged that the girlfriend/wife was liable for the failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance, since he asserted that her involvement with the business rose to the level of her being a de facto partner. The trial court disagreed, which is why it granted her motion for summary judgment.

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