Massachusetts Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog
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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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lab-751198-mPrior posts on this blog have discussed the fact that many workers who become injured in Massachusetts, in some cases even those who lose a limb, may not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or may not receive the level of compensation that they deserve.

One category of injured workers that may not necessarily receive the compensation they deserve is those who are scarred from chemical burns, gas explosions, falling pallets, or machine injuries. That is because under current Massachusetts workers’ compensation laws, if workers’ injuries and resulting scars occur on their arms, legs, or torsos, they do not receive workers’ compensation benefits for their permanent disfigurement.

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taxi-bubble-sign-1442111-mIn a critically important recent case, Sebago v. Boston Cab Dispatch, Inc., Mass. Sup. Jud. Ct. (2015), the Supreme Judicial Court entered a decision on the issue of whether state wage laws are disharmonious with Rule 403, which extensively regulates the taxicab industry in Boston.

At issue in the case was the contention that several taxicab drivers believed that they were improperly classified as independent contractors, rather than employees, and that therefore they were properly entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, among other related claims.

In 1930, the legislature granted the authority to the police commissioner of Boston to create regulations for taxicabs and related methods of transportation. Then in 2008, pursuant to that prior regulatory system, the commissioner under the authority of that mandate promulgated Rule 403. This created a comprehensive system of rules and regulations that govern the ownership, leasing, licensing, rate setting, and operation of taxicabs in the city of Boston.

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tile-roof-2-1226071-mWorkers’ compensation is a system that was designed to provide compensation for workers who become injured or sick due to their job. As a condition of availing themselves of the system, workers forfeit the right to pursue any other potential legal remedies under the common law, and the employer gives up any judgments or determinations regarding fault. If an employee becomes injured or sick in a manner that arises out of their employment, they are entitled to workers’ compensation. However, in order for that system to work properly, it must be funded adequately.

The Massachusetts Attorney General recently announced a case of purported workers’ compensation fraud by two separate business owners that were reportedly indicted for failure to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation insurance premiums, according to the Attorney General.

The Executive Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau announced that his office will work in concert with the Attorney General’s office to investigate this case, and any similar cases that may attempt to defraud the Massachusetts workers’ compensation system.

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busIn a recent case related to workers’ compensationCommonwealth v. Parker, Mass. App. Ct. (2015), the case arose out of a scenario in which the defendant was convicted by a jury of having purportedly misled a police officer engaged in a criminal investigation. The defendant appealed the decision, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction.

The court included the following facts in its opinion. On the day of the incident, a police officer was dispatched to the location on a report of shots fired at a bus driver. The defendant (bus driver) informed the police officer that a person boarded the bus, brandished a weapon, and ordered her to give him all of her money. He then allegedly fired a shot at her, which caused a bullet to be lodged in the driver’s seat. The driver then attempted to stand in order to reach for her wallet, but the assailant hit her, causing her to fall backwards and resulting in injury. The assailant then allegedly fired three additional shots, two of which purportedly pierced her sleeve, but the bullet did not injure her.

The defendant then reportedly described her assailant to the police officer. She also purportedly informed the officer of the type of weapon that had been used.

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dentalIn a recent workers’ compensation case, Riley v. City of Lynn, Mass. App. Ct. (2014), the court issued an opinion on the complicated area of the interplay of injured police officer benefits and retirement benefits.

In the case, a police officer had incurred extensive injury to his mouth in the line of duty, such that a decision in 1984 declared that he was permanently disabled, under the legal sense of the term, and that he was accordingly entitled to all of the benefits and compensation afforded to disabled police officers under the law.

In 2008, there was a bench trial that concluded that the injuries to the officer’s teeth and mouth were the natural and proximate cause of the work-related injury, and that therefore so was his need for a full mouth restoration. The judge thus found that the proposed course of treatment and projected expenses were reasonable.

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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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