Massachusetts Employee Awarded Workers’ Compensation Benefits After Workplace Assault

In a newly issued decision on a workers’ compensation appeal, the Massachusetts Reviewing Board of Industrial Accidents reviewed an administrative judge’s decision regarding an employee’s claim for total incapacity benefits. In Charles Berfield v. North Shore Medical Center, the employee was working as a mental health counselor when he was assaulted and beaten by a patient in a locked ward, sustaining multiple injuries. His employer accepted liability for the workers’ compensation claim and paid § 34 temporary total incapacity benefits from the date of the injury. The employer subsequently filed a claim seeking to modify or discontinue the employee’s weekly benefits, while the employee filed a claim for § 34A permanent and total incapacity benefits.

At the hearing, the administrative judge found that the medical issues were complex and allowed the parties to submit additional medical evidence. Relying on the medical opinion of the § 11A independent medical examiner, the judge determined that the employee had right shoulder limitations as a result of the work injury, but the left shoulder complaints were not causally related to the industrial accident. The judge also found that the employee had a pre-existing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression that combined with the work injury to require treatment. The administrative judge discontinued payment of § 34 temporary total incapacity benefits and ordered the employer to pay § 35 partial incapacity benefits.

On appeal, the employee argued that the administrative judge ignored evidence pertaining to his left shoulder, particularly medical reports of the employee’s doctor that had been submitted at the conference and reviewed by the impartial medical examiner. The Board disagreed, finding that the medical reports at issue were not introduced at the hearing. As a result, the judge was not in error.

The employee also argued that the testimony of the independent medical examiner supported the causal relationship between the workplace injury and his left shoulder injury. Specifically, the doctor testified it was possible that the injury to the employee’s left arm could have caused the employee to overcompensate with his left arm. The Reviewing Board noted that medical opinions are expressed in terms of probability, not possibility, and the opinion of the impartial medical examiner regarding this issue could not support a finding of causation. In addition, the Board reasoned that the employee was permitted to cross-examine the impartial medical examiner and had submitted additional medical evidence in support of his claim. Based on the evidence of record, the Board agreed with the administrative judge’s finding that the employee could return to work full-time, with limitations. The employee was therefore awarded partial incapacity benefits.

If you have been hurt in an on-the-job accident or suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to compensation under the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act. At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our benefits lawyers are committed to providing aggressive legal representation to individuals pursuing workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expenses and lost wages. To discuss your claim with one of our experienced injury attorneys, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 or online and schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

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

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

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