The Appeals Court of Massachusetts granted a police officer reimbursement for the dental bills he incurred to replace teeth knocked out while he was on duty 20 years before.
The police officer was injured on the job in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1980. When he applied for reimbursement for the cost of treatment for his injuries, the city refused to indemnify him for his dental expenses. In 1984, the Superior Court rendered a judgment that he was permanently disabled, as defined by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 41, sections 100 and 100B, and entitled to compensation and benefits as a disabled police officer. However, the trial court did not order the city to pay his dental bills, ruling that the injured officer was not entitled to indemnification for the costs of treatment because the city health plan provided no dental benefits for retirees or employees.
He tried repeatedly to enforce the part of the judgment that he was disabled by an on-the-job injury and entitled to compensation as a disabled police officer. He also fought to reverse the part of the judgment that stated that his entitlement was limited to the benefits available to law enforcement retirees. Finally, in 2014, 20 years after the initial judgment, the Appeals Court ruled that he was entitled to full compensation for his work-related injuries, not limited to benefits available to retirees.
Massachusetts General Laws chapter 41, section 100 provides for indemnification for reasonable medical and related expenses to police officers and firefighters who, through no fault of their own, are physically or mentally incapacitated due to being injured on the job but who are also excluded from coverage under the Workers’ Compensation Act, General Laws chapter 152, section 69. The incapacitation must be the result of a hazard unique to their profession, and they must have been acting within the scope of their employment at the time they were injured or became ill.
The Appeals Court examined the statute and Massachusetts case law and concluded that the policeman could claim benefits under a medical plan even if it excluded payment for medical (or dental) expenses if he was entitled to reimbursement under state, federal, or municipal law. He was entitled to benefits under Massachusetts General Law chapter 41, section 100, which provides indemnification for reasonable medical and related expenses for injuries incurred while working as a police officer, as long as the injury was work-related, not the officer’s fault, and due to a hazard unique to the job.
The Court reversed the portion of the trial court’s judgment for the officer that denied him benefits. The court found that, as an injured member of law enforcement, the officer claimant was in a category different from other employees and retirees. Consequently, his benefits were not limited to those provided by the city to its employees or retirees. The Court ruled that the policeman should be reimbursed for the costs of periodontal treatment and for dental implants to replace the teeth he lost when he was injured on duty.
For more information about the workers’ compensation process, contact a Boston workers’ compensation attorney from Pulgini & Norton to schedule a free consultation to find out more about what our lawyers can accomplish for you. Contact us via e-mail with a brief description of your situation or reach us by phone at our Downtown Boston, Hyde Park, or Braintree, Massachusetts office locations.
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