Massachusetts Court of Appeals Adopts Administrative Judge’s Findings Regarding Employee Credibility

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently reviewed a workers’ compensation appeal from a decision of the reviewing board of the Department of Industrial Accidents, In re Sosa’s Case. The employee appealed the board’s order summarily affirming the administrative judge’s denial of the employee’s claim for incapacity and medical benefits.

On May 7, 2007, the employee suffered an industrial injury to his left upper extremity, which was accepted by the employer’s insurer. In a previous case, the employee was awarded temporary total incapacity benefits pursuant to G.L. c. 152, § 34 for the injury to his cervical spine and left shoulder. In January 2012, the employee filed a second claim seeking § 34 incapacity benefits and § 35 medical benefits related to injuries to his upper left arm and shoulder related to injuries sustained in the 2007 industrial accident.

The administrative judge specifically found that the employee’s testimony regarding his pain was not credible and denied the employee’s claim. The employee then requested the appointment of an impartial medical examiner. The impartial examiner opined that while the employee continued to suffer impairment from the 2007 industrial accident, he had reached a medical end result, and no further treatment was indicated. The impartial examiner also stated that the employee was capable of full-time employment with restrictions. However, since the administrative judge did not find the employee to be a credible witness, the judge did not adopt the parts of the medical examiner’s opinion that were based on the employee’s statements regarding the injury and his pain.

On appeal, the employee argued that the judge’s credibility determination was arbitrary and capricious. The appeals court held that it is well-settled law that an administrative judge in the Department of Industrial Accidents need not adopt the conclusions of an impartial medical examiner’s report if the judge finds the factual foundation of the report to be not credible. The court also noted the long-standing rule that findings of fact, assessments of credibility, and determinations of the weight to be given the evidence are within the exclusive function of the administrative judge.

In light of the administrative judge’s opportunity to observe the employee’s testimony in two separate proceedings, and the fact that the employee’s testimony regarding the description of how the accident occurred was inconsistent, the court deferred to and upheld the judge’s decision. The court stated that the judge’s findings directly related to the issues of incapacity and causation, which are necessary elements of the employee’s workers’ compensation claim.

If you have suffered an injury while working on a job site, you may be entitled to recover payment for your medical treatment and lost wages under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. At Pulgini & Norton, our injury attorneys offer experienced and aggressive legal representation to clients pursuing workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts. To discuss your claim with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online and schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

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

Massachusetts Appeals Court Denies Employee Total Incapacity Benefits in Workers’ Compensation Case, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published August 26, 2015


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