Massachusetts Appeals Court Fails to Find Partnership in Workers’ Compensation Hopeful Case

In 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.

On review, the appeals court reviewed the relevant Massachusetts law regarding partnership, which is defined as “an association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit.”

The court stated that the only evidence that the defendant was involved in the business at all was that the initial corporation listed her residence as the personal address of the business owner when he registered the company as a sole proprietorship. It found no evidence of any formal partnership, and that the woman’s only role in the business was in some managerial oversight, and in the writing of a few checks when the owner of the business was incarcerated temporarily.

Additionally, regarding the plaintiff’s arguments of the woman’s continued involvement after the defendant owner was released from prison, the employee’s injury occurred a reported year before that time. Therefore, any arguments as to her later involvement were not relevant to that determination.

The plaintiff made arguments regarding similar cases from other states, which did find partnership. The appeals court found those cases were sufficiently different, since the purported partners in those cases were found to have contributed much more to the businesses in which they were involved. Such differences included working 17-hour days in a restaurant, for example. Therefore, the granting of summary judgment as to the defendant girlfriend/wife was affirmed.

If you are hurt at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries and lost wages. The experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers at Pulgini & Norton offer comprehensive guidance and representation in these matters. We can assist you throughout the entire workers’ compensation claim process. Call our office today at (781) 843-2200, or you can contact us online in order to schedule an initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Proposed Amendment to Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Laws Could Help Burn Victims, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published May 6, 2015

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules in Favor of Taxicab Owners, Fails to Find Drivers Employees for Workers’ Compensation Purposes, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published April 28, 2015

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