Massachusetts Reviewing Board Recommits Case When Judge May Have Been Biased and Failed to Rule on Objections in Medical Depositions

In an appeal before the Massachusetts Reviewing Board, Department of Industrial Accidents, the issues was whether an administrative judge had lacked impartiality in deciding that the insurer must pay benefits to an employee who suffered a workplace injury.  The Board also addressed whether the judge had failed to rule on objections regarding the medical depositions.

In this case, the employee worked as a manager of a donut franchise for approximately nine years, until she injured her left knee and lower back. The workers’ compensation insurer paid § 34 benefits in accordance with a conference order, but then it terminated them after offering the employee a job based on medical restrictions set forth in an independent medical examination report.  Since the judge found that the impartial report was adequate, but the medical issues were complex, the parties were allowed to submit additional medical evidence.

When making his determination, the judge had relied upon part of the medical opinions to find the employee was totally disabled due to the industrial accident. The employer had made two job offers to the employee, but the judge found that neither offer was suitable.  The judge then awarded the employee ongoing § 34 benefits, as of the date of discontinuance. The insurer appealed.

Both parties agreed that the judge had not ruled on objections that had been made during the two medical depositions.  The Board stated that recommittal was necessary, since parties are entitled to know the evidence presented against them and to be able to rebut the evidence and develop a record for review.

The insurer had raised the issue of judicial bias, and the Board stated that when this claim is raised, the judge must address the claim. Specifically, the insurer argued that the judge had criticized the insurer for not producing at a hearing the author of two job offers that had been made to the employee.  The judge also allegedly criticized the insurer for stopping benefits due to a medical report and conclusions that were, according to the judge, “laughable.”  Since these claims of bias were in the judge’s written decision but not mentioned at the hearing, the insurer did not have a chance to raise the issue of bias earlier.

The Board recommitted the case to let the administrative judge determine whether he was capable of impartially deciding the case. If the judge determines that he can impartially decide the case, the Board stated that he should rule on the objections regarding the medical depositions.  Following that, the Board stated that the judge should reconsider his findings and make any additional findings as necessary.

After suffering injuries while at work, you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries and lost wages. The Massachusetts lawyers at Pulgini & Norton offer compassionate legal representation for injured clients seeking workers’ compensation benefits. To discuss the details of your claim with one of our dedicated attorneys, contact our office by calling (781) 843-2200 or complete our form online and schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Reviewing Board Recommits Case to Determine Injured Employee’s Average Weekly Wage Because Judge Had Not Provided Basis for Ultimate Finding, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, June 15, 2017

Massachusetts Reviewing Board Recommits Case Involving Entitlement of Spouse of Deceased Worker to Survivor Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, August 4, 2016

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