Massachusetts Reviewing Board Reverses Dismissal of Claim for Benefits Stemming from Emotional Trauma

The Massachusetts workers’ compensation system provides benefits to individuals who suffer injuries on the job. For many individuals, knowing how to navigate the legal system and understanding the complex procedures that must be followed can be daunting. At Pulgini & Norton, our seasoned Boston work injury lawyers have assisted many workers with understanding the best way to assert their rights following an accident at work.

In a recent claim, the employee worked for a temp agency that sent him to work for a company testing new medications. The employee had a medical degree and experience working as a clinical researcher. His boss at the job site instructed him to duplicate her research for the purposes of validating her findings. After performing the same research and testings, the employee concluded that the doctor had used improper methodologies and that her findings were invalid. According to him, his boss pressured him to change his approach to mirror her original findings, but he refused. The employee alleged that his boss became unhappy with him and assigned him menial tasks as retaliation and that his co-workers ridiculed him. He was fired in July 2011. The employee alleged that he suffered emotional harm as a result of the professional disagreement with his boss regarding the appropriate way to test the medications.

The worker did not undergo any psychological treatment until roughly three years after he was fired. According to the psychologist, the employee suffered from a single episode of depression of a severe nature. An impartial medical doctor assigned to evaluate the man’s condition concluded that the man suffered from a schizoaffective disorder that was not related to the workplace events. Instead, this doctor concluded that the workplace events exacerbated the condition. The independent doctor determined that the man was completely disabled and that he was unlikely to experience an improved function.

Following termination, the man filed a demand for arbitration pursuant to his employment contract, and the arbitrator rejected his wrongful termination and discrimination claims. The arbitrator found a lack of evidence showing discriminatory intent. The next year, the employee filed claims against the employer in civil court, which were dismissed on the ground that they were barred by the arbitration proceeding.

The employee next filed a worker’s compensation claim, which was denied. The employer’s insurer objected to the claim on the basis of res judicata, which is a doctrine that prevents a litigant from taking two bites at the apple. The judge agreed with the insurer and dismissed the claim. The employee appealed to the reviewing board, which reversed the lower judge’s dismissal. The reviewing board found that the elements of res judicata were not satisfied and that there were viable claims to be considered in the workers’ compensation matter.

If you suffered an injury at work, it is important that you understand which legal procedures you should follow to protect your rights and to maximize your recovery. At Pulgini & Norton, we proudly assist Boston victims with recovering workers’ compensation benefits for their medical expenses and lost wages. We provide a free consultation to help you learn about our firm, so call us now at 781-843-2200 or contact us online.

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