Massachusetts Court Reverses Order Denying Benefits Based on Judge’s Impermissible Findings Regarding Liability and Injured Worker Credibility

There are countless rules that apply to workers’ compensation proceedings, especially when it comes to what the judge can consider when ruling on an issue in the claim. Having a seasoned Boston work injury lawyer on your side to help you ensure that everyone involved is following these rules can take the stress and anxiety out of an already difficult situation.

In a recent claim, the employee worked as a facility manager and technician and later moved to a similar company to perform comparable tasks. The employee filed a claim for benefits and the insurer for the second employer accepted liability. The man sought benefits for the aggravation of a back injury that he sustained while working for his second employer. The judge denied the claim, finding that the worker was not a credible witness or accurate historian of the events surrounding his alleged injuries. In the order denying the claims, the judge stated that there was no convincing testimony that an industrial accident happened at either employer and that the worker’s medical history lacked supporting evidence.

The worker appealed, stating that the judge made a reversible error in expanding the dispute before him by concluding that there was no convincing evidence indicating that he suffered an accident with either employer when it was undisputed that the worker had an accident while engaged with his second employer. The appellate court agreed with the worker and noted that the second employer’s insurance company did not contest liability for the injury. As a result, it was improper for the court to expand the parameters of the dispute to an evaluation of whether the worker suffered a job-related injury. If an insurer does not contest liability, then the alleged injury is deemed to have occurred.

The worker also appealed on the basis that the judge did not provide any reasoning to support his conclusion that the worker was not a credible witness, which deprived the employee of his right to a meaningful review. The insurer stated that credibility assessments are within the exclusive determination of the judge and that this was not an error. The appellate court stated the general rule that a credibility analysis can be overturned as arbitrary and capricious if it is not based on evidence int he record or reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the evidence in the record. Reviewing the record at hand, the appellate court determined that the judge’s credibility determination were likely tainted by his conclusion that the employee did not suffer a compensable injury. Because the judge rejected outright every aspect of the worker’s testimony and medical history without specifying findings of fact regarding the injury, credible testimony, and other medical evidence, the court was unable to assess this issue in full. As a result of these findings, the appellate court vacated the order and remanded the claim.

The dedicated Boston workers’ compensation lawyers at Pulgini & Norton have substantial experience handling work injury claims of many different types on behalf of local residents. We are well versed in the rules that apply to the claims process and will ensure that you receive the fair outcome that you deserve during this challenging experience. To set up a free consultation call us at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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