In a newly issued decision concerning workers’ compensation benefits, the Massachusetts Reviewing Board of Industrial Accidents determined whether § 36 benefits were appropriately awarded to an employee after his employer’s insurer appealed the decision. In Scott Marino v. Progression Systems (April 5, 2016), the employee was injured in a catastrophic accident while on a business trip outside the country, when the car in which he was a passenger rolled over. The employee was rendered tetraplegic and confined to a wheelchair, receiving a long course of physical and occupational therapy.
The employee filed a claim for § 13, § 30, and § 36 benefits under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. He was awarded § 36 benefits in the amount of $297,661.79, which included $25,344 for scarring and disfigurement, as well as reimbursement for medications, mileage, and parking. The administrative judge also ordered the insurer to pay for 24-hour nursing care, seven days a week. The insurer appealed, contending that the § 36 award exceed the maximum allowable amount of $15,000 for scarring and disfigurement, among other arguments. Specifically, the insurer argued the judge erred by including payments for $10,344 for scarring in addition to $15,000 for use of a wheelchair in violation of § 36(1)(k).
Pursuant to MGLA 152 § § 36(1)(k), an employee shall be paid for specific injuries, including bodily disfigurement, in an amount that is a proper and equitable compensation, not to exceed $15,000. However, no amount is payable for disfigurement that is purely scar-based, unless such disfigurement is on the face, neck, or hands. In interpreting the statute, the Reviewing Board held that the $15,000 limitation applies to all bodily disfigurements, both scar and non-scar based, resulting from a single injury. Therefore, the Board reversed the award of $25,344, finding that the insurer’s liability was limited to $15,000 for both the employee’s use of a wheelchair and scarring.