Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Award of Benefits to Injured Cafeteria Worker Based on Inconsistent Medical Opinion Evidence

Some work injuries heal over time, while others leave the victim with permanent disabilities or disfigurement. These cases raise special issues when it comes to making sure that an employee receives what he or she deserves after such a devastating accident. As tenacious Boston workers’ compensation lawyers, we have handled a wide variety of work injury claims, including those involving catastrophic injuries.

In a recent appellate opinion, an insurer appealed from a lower court’s order requiring it to pay permanent and total incapacity benefits, as well as bodily disfigurement benefits in the amount of $15,000. The lower court also awarded reasonable and necessary medical expenses, allowing the employee to obtain a motorized chairlift.

The employee worked for the city school system, where she prepared and distributed food to students. The employee was cleaning tables when she slipped and fell. She hit her right leg during the fall and sustained a serious injury. She attempted to return to work the next day but was sent home and advised to seek medical treatment. She was later diagnosed with a sprained ankle and various contusions.

On appeal, the insurer alleged that the judge made several errors, including internally inconsistent findings, mischaracterizing the evidence provided by the independent medical examiner, relying on additional medical evidence to refute the independent medical examiner’s opinion, failing to conduct an appropriate analysis regarding the cause of the employee’s injuries, and failing to appropriately analyze the employee’s earning capacity.

On review, the appellate court found reversible errors regarding the insurer’s first two grounds for appeal. Specifically, the appellate court found issues with the independent medical examiner’s findings regarding causation. The insurer was correct in noting that the judge’s findings were inconsistent on this issue. Also, the appellate court noted that the judge misstated the independent medical examiner’s opinions and relied on the misstated opinions throughout the opinion awarding the employee benefits. The appellate court cited specifically to the independent medical examiner’s report stating that there was no clear diagnosis to explain why the employee’s condition had not improved after the fall, as well as stating that there was a well-documented partial tear of the employee’s right Achilles tendon. This created an internal inconsistency regarding the causal relationship between the injury and the employee’s condition.

Finally, the appellate court noted that the judge adopted inconsistent medical opinions. According to Massachusetts law, when a judge adopts conflicting medical testimony, the result is an inconsistency that cannot stand on appeal. As a result, the appellate court vacated the award of benefits and remanded the case for further proceedings.

If you believe that you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, let our seasoned team of Boston workers’ compensation lawyers assist you. We know how confusing and difficult this process can be, which is why we believe that every client deserves attentive and responsive counsel. We can assist you with investigating your claim, gathering evidence, and ensuring that you receive the maximum amount of compensation that you deserve. To set up your free consultation, call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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