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Massachusetts Appellate Court Reverses Decision and Remands Case for Reassignment Upon Finding of Judicial Impartiality

In a trial or any other court proceeding, we expect to receive fair treatment. This includes having our case heard before an impartial judge. When you are injured at work, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. This is a complex process with many different steps and countless rules that apply. If this is your first work injury, it can be difficult to know if you are receiving fair treatment and whether you should object to something that is taking place. Our dedicated team of Boston work injury lawyers is standing by to help you protect your right to compensation following an on-the-job accident.

In a recent claim, the insurer made several objections to the outcome of a claim proceeding on the basis that the judge was not impartial. The employee who filed the claim suffered knee and back injuries in 2014 and received benefits for a period of time. Eventually, an independent medical examiner concluded that the woman reached a point of medical improvement and that her disability lasted only six months. The judge adopted portions of three different reports to conclude that she was permanently disabled, however.

The insurer appealed on the basis that cobbling together phrases from three opinions revealed the judge’s impartiality. The insurer won this appeal and the reviewing judge remanded the matter for further considerations. On remand, the judge stood by his original decision and stated that he did not act impartially. The insurer appealed again, asking that the appellate court reassign the matter to a new judge.

On review for a second time, the appellate court agreed that the judge failed to dispel the issue of impartiality, particularly when it came to interjecting issues that were not raised in the proceedings and reliance on material that was not included in the hearing record. The employee did not raise issues regarding the methodology that the impartial medical examiner used, for example, but the judge interjected this issue into his opinion nonetheless.

The judge also criticized the insurer for discontinuing benefits and mischaracterized one of the independent medical examiners’ reports as “laughable,” “bizarre,” and “unqualified.” The judge also improperly raised issues about things like consent, authorization, methodology, accuracy, oversight, and privacy for the worker. The employee did not raise any of these issues, making the judge’s inquiry improper. Judges are only allowed to make findings and conclusions about matters that are properly before them in a proceding, which means that either party must raise an issue in order for the judge to make a ruling on it.

Based on these findings, the second appellate court remanded the case for reassignment to another judge.

If you were hurt at work, you probably have many questions about your legal options and what you need to do to protect your right to benefits. At Pulgini & Norton, we have handled countless different types of work injury claims on behalf of residents throughout Massachusetts. We are proud to assist injured workers during this critical time of need and will handle all aspects of the claim including negotiating with insurance companies. To set up your free consultation call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online to get started.

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