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Mass. Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Employer’s Complaint Seeking Discontinuation of Worker’s Benefits in Toxic Exposure Disability Claim

Even when you have been awarded workers’ compensation benefits, the employer can seek a discontinuance of those benefits down the road based on a variety of factors such as a claim that your disability has improved. In many cases, the worker receiving benefits still requires those payments. Having a dedicated Boston work injury lawyer on your side to ensure that you are treated fairly throughout the claims process, including any disputes regarding discontinuation of benefits, is critical.

In a recent opinion, the Massachusetts appellate court affirmed a lower court’s decision to dismiss an employer’s complaint to discontinue a worker’s permanent and total incapacity benefits. The worker received benefits initially in 1998 due to health conditions that she developed when the school where she worked was being renovated. The construction caused her to be exposed to thick smoke, noxious fumes, exhaust, paint, and other chemicals. The judge presiding over that clam concluded that there was a causal connection between the exposure and her symptoms of nausea, dizziness, pain in her extremities, cough, and asthma.

The worker received benefits from 1998 until 2017 when the employer sought discontinuation of the benefits. The worker submitted reports from medical experts indicating that she was still disabled and the judge accepted the testimony in those reports linking her continued disability to the toxic exposure at her job. The employer appealed the dismissal of its complaint for discontinuation on the basis that the reports were not submitted at the appropriate time, that the doctor did not examine the employee in close enough proximity to when the report was authored, and that the doctor’s reports must be excluded because they included a controversial medical diagnosis that is not accepted in the medical community, multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).

Regarding the first two assignments of error, the appellate court rejected them on the basis that the lower court’s ruling was clear and provided sufficient explanation and support for the decision denying the discontinuation of benefits. Regarding the third assignment of error, the court pointed to the lower court’s statement of decision which explained how the medical expert used MCS as a diagnostic code and how she uses other diagnoses that are more commonly accepted like Chronic Environmental Illness as the official diagnosis for the employee. The term MCS was used more so to describe a set of lengthy symptoms that the employee reported experiencing, a so-called abbreviation for the “constellation of several symptoms” that she experienced. Based on these and other findings, the appellate court upheld the dismissal of the employer’s complaint to discontinue benefit payments.

At Pulgini & Norton, we have seen how complex and stressful a workers’ compensation claim can be, especially if the employer attempts to revoke your benefits. We have fought on behalf of injured workers and their families throughout Massachusetts and we are prepared to help you secure the outcome that you deserve during this devastating situation. We provide a free consultation so that you can learn more about our team and how the workers’ compensation claims process works. To schedule an appointment, call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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