Massachusetts Employee Allowed to File New Claim After Lengthy Delay in Workers’ Compensation Decision

In a newly issued decision, the Massachusetts Reviewing Board of Industrial Accidents considered an appeal regarding workers’ compensation benefits awarded after an untimely order of an administrative judge. In Albert Mancini v. Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, the worker sustained injuries to his lower back, right knee, and left elbow in an altercation with an inmate. The insurer disputed liability, and a hearing was conducted in March 2011. The administrative judge issued a decision nearly three and a half years later, awarding the employee § 34 benefits immediately followed by § 35 benefits, and denying the employee’s claim for a psychiatric injury as well as the employer’s § 27 defense that the employee was injured as a result of his own serious and willful misconduct.

On appeal, the primary issue for the Reviewing Board was whether the parties were prejudiced by the administrative judge’s failure to file a timely decision. The employee requested recommittal of the case to a new administrative judge, which would essentially result in relitigation of the nature of the employee’s injury, the causal relationship between the back injury and his need for surgery, and the issue of his disability relating to the combined back and knee injuries. The employer requested the right to contest ongoing incapacity from the day after the close of evidence, September 2011, and continuing.

The Reviewing Board noted that there will almost always be a time-lag between the date of the close of evidence and the issuance of the decision, and since there may be legitimate reasons for delay, there is no bright-line rule as to whether a particular time period or delay is prejudicial per se. However, in the current case, the Board found that, without an explanation for the lengthy delay, the three and a half year delay in issuing a decision was clearly prejudicial to both parties.

The Board ultimately concluded that the appropriate remedy was to allow the employee to file a new claim from the date of the close of the evidence, as opposed to the date of the decision. The employee may therefore seek increased benefits, and the employer may seek a reduction in benefits, but both parties must put forth evidence in support of their respective positions. The Board also agreed that the matter should be recommitted to a different administrative judge.

If you have been hurt in an on-the-job accident or suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages under the Workers’ Compensation Act. At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our injury lawyers are dedicated to representing individuals in claims involving workers’ compensation benefits, and we can assist you in pursuing medical expenses and lost wages. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online. We represent people in Boston and the surrounding areas.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Employee Prevails on Claim for Workers’ Compensation Partial Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published March 24, 2016

Massachusetts Court of Appeals Adopts Administrative Judge’s Findings Regarding Employee Credibility, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published October 27, 2015

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