Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Claim for Emotional Distress Benefits

One of the most important aspects of a workers’ compensation claim to address is the evidence that you intend to present to show the nature and scope of your injury, as well as its origin. At Pulgini & Norton, our skilled and dedicated Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers are well-versed in the claims process and ready to help you ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation that you deserve.

In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered an injured worker’s appeal from an order that denied and dismissed his claim for medical benefit payments and weekly benefits. The employee alleged that the judge made a reversible mistake by denying his request to provide evidence at the hearing regarding his claim from a hearing before the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

The man was working as a custodian for the employer during 1999. He was involved in an altercation at work with the director of facilities for one of the public schools within the employer’s jurisdiction. The employer fired the worker after an investigation regarding the fight. A few years later, the employee filed a claim seeking benefits for weekly wages and medical expenses on the basis that he sustained severe emotional distress from the altercation.

The employer challenged the claim on several bases, including the extent of incapacity and causal relationship, and claimed that the worker suffered from a pre-existing condition. The employer also argued that the employee’s serious and willful conduct during the altercation precluded him from receiving benefits under Massachusetts workers’ compensation law. The parties stipulated to the fact that the worker received unemployment benefits. The employee moved for an order to preclude relitigating the issues discussed in the hearing, awarding him benefits, and to require the judge to adopt the findings of fact in that hearing. The insurer opposed this request and the judge rejected it.

Several witnesses testified at the hearing regarding the events that took place on the day of the altercation. Ultimately, the judge denied the claim and found that the termination was a bona fide personnel action and that the employee’s alleged emotional distress was not compensable through the workers’ compensation system. The worker appealed, claiming that the lower court erred by refusing to accept the findings of the unemployment hearings. The appellate court upheld the lower court’s determination that there was sufficient evidence to show that the worker engaged in serious and willful misconduct. The appellate court also noted that the judge did not err in refusing to accept the findings of the unemployment hearing because the worker failed to show that they were barred by the res judicata doctrine.

Work-related injuries can be sudden and stressful. If you are struggling to recover and unsure of the best way to assert your right to workers’ compensation benefits, we are standing by and ready to assist you. Whether you simply have questions about the process or you are currently involved in an open claim, we will provide you with the compassionate and responsive legal counsel that you deserve. To set up a free consultation call us at  781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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