Massachusetts Appeals Court Holding Bars Injured Temp Worker from Suing Employer

In a newly released opinion, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts analyzed the issue of whether a staffing company’s workers’ compensation insurance policy precludes a temporary worker from suing his direct employer while on assignment for the staffing company. In Molina v. State Garden, the plaintiff was employed by a company that provides temporary staffing to business clients, such as the defendant. The plaintiff was assigned by the staffing company as a temporary worker at the defendant’s processing facility in Massachusetts. The plaintiff suffered a low back injury in the course of his work for the defendant, which was covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act. The plaintiff applied for and received benefits from the staffing company’s workers’ compensation insurer for the injuries incurred while working at the defendant’s facility.

The first issue for the court was whether the staffing company’s workers’ compensation policy immunized the defendant from tort liability under the exclusivity provisions of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act.  Pursuant to the Act, such benefits are the exclusive remedy for claims brought by an injured employee against an employer. To be eligible from immunity under the Act, an employer must be an insured person liable for the payment of compensation benefits, and the employer must be the direct employer of the employee.  When there is a general and special employer, as in Molina, § 18 of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act provides that compensation for the worker’s injury shall be paid by the general employer, unless an agreement between the parties provides that the special employer is liable. The court found that such an agreement existed between the staffing company and the defendant under the staffing company’s workers’ compensation policy, and thus the defendant is immune from tort liability.

The second issue on appeal concerned the validity of the waiver and release signed by the plaintiff upon his employment with the staffing company, in which the plaintiff agreed not to bring suit against any client of the staffing company, such as the defendant, based on injuries covered by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. The Molina court held that the waiver and release was enforceable and not against public policy, since it only prevented the plaintiff from receiving additional damages from his injuries without extinguishing his rights under the Act. Therefore, the court found that the defendant was immune from liability under the Workers’ Compensation Act, as well as protected by the waiver and release signed by the plaintiff. The court thus affirmed the lower court’s order of summary judgment against the plaintiff.

If you have been hurt while working on the job, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury, including medical expenses and lost wages. The Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton provides legal representation for clients pursuing workers’ compensation benefits after an injury. To discuss your claim with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Court Finds No Newly Discovered Evidence in Workers’ Compensation Case, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published July 15, 2015

Massachusetts Appeals Court Rules Against Injured Worker, Discontinues Temporary Total Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published July 29, 2015

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