Massachusetts Appeals Court Reviews Worker’s Compensation Claim for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In a recent opinion, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts reviewed a workers’ compensation case in the matter of In re Murphy, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 1122 (2016). The employee appealed a decision of the Reviewing Board of the Department of Industrial Accidents, which affirmed an order by the administrative judge denying his claim for total benefits under G.L. c. 152 § 34A and partial benefits under § 35. In addition, the employee’s claims for interest and penalties under § 8(1) and attorney’s fees pursuant to § 13A were denied.

On appeal, the employee argued that the administrative judge erred in determining that his carpal tunnel syndrome had not worsened. Specifically, the employee maintained that the causally related condition of his left wrist was definitive proof that a change in condition existed. The appeals court, however, found that the medical evidence indicated that the employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome had in fact improved since he had stopped working. As a result, the court found the administrative judge did not err in denying partial and total benefits to the employee.

The employee also contended that the administrative judge erred in failing to impose a $10,000 penalty for underpaid interest. Pursuant to § 8(1), any failure of an insurer to make all payments due to an employee under the terms of an order or decision shall result in a penalty. The appeals court noted that the insurer was only directed to pay back interest on the benefits award to the employee, and it did not fail to make payments of workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to an order. Accordingly, the court found that the insurer was not subject to the penalty provision under § 8(1).

Finally, the employee argued that the decision not to award an attorney’s fee under § 13A for a recommittal was an abuse of discretion. In reviewing that determination, the appeals court explained that the administrative judge specifically noted that he took no additional evidence upon recommittal and that it required no additional work from the employee’s attorney. The court further reasoned that a recommittal is not a new hearing but is simply another proceeding on the same hearing arising from the same claim. In addition, § 13A(5) provides the judge with discretion to increase or decrease fees based on the complexity of the case or the effort expended by the employee’s attorney. The court therefore affirmed the decision in its entirety.

If you have suffered a work-related injury, your medical expenses and lost earnings may be covered by the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation Act. At Pulgini & Norton, our dedicated attorneys provide aggressive, high-quality legal representation to employees seeking workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts, and we can help you pursue the maximum amount of benefits to which you may be entitled under the law. To discuss your claim with one of our injury lawyers, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online and schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Appeals Court Finds for Worker Claiming Partial Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published August 12, 2015

Massachusetts Reviewing Board Affirms Award of Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Including Handicapped Housing, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published November 2, 2015

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