Reviewing Board Recommits Case After Massachusetts Judge Erred in Failing to Consider Injured Employee’s Properly Admitted Evidence and Set Forth Disability Findings Inconsistent with Dates  

Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, Review Board, held that an administrative judge had not considered evidence the injured employee had properly submitted regarding his medical condition due to a work injury.  The Board vacated the decision and remitted the matter for further review, noting also that the judge had mistakenly set forth dates for disability findings that were inconsistent with his adopted evidence.

In this case, the injured employee worked as a court officer and was hurt during an altercation with a prisoner in March 2012.  The employee underwent treatment at a hospital for injuries to his ribs, right arm, and wrist.  After the self-insurer accepted legal fault for the injured employee’s physical harm, the parties stipulated the injuries had resolved by May 2013.

At conference, the employee joined a claim for psychiatric counseling and further indemnity benefits, as well as a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The insurer contended they were not liable for the PTSD injury.  Since the judge deemed the § 11A report inadequate regarding the PTSD claim, the parties were allowed to submit additional medical evidence.

The judge next adopted medical opinions that suggested the employee did not have any objective neurological impairment due to the March 2012 work incident.  The judge also held that any physical injuries the employee had were resolved as of May 2013. Based on the evidence, the judge held that the employee could return to work as of June 2013.

The employee appealed the judge’s order, contending that the judge failed to consider additional medical reports that had been provided by a licensed social worker.  Two reports had been submitted at the hearing.  The Board stated that failing to list or consider medical evidence that has been submitted at a hearing requires recommittal so that the evidence can be considered. Additionally, the Board noted that administrative judges are not required to comment on all of the evidence that has been presented, but they must consider all properly admitted evidence.

Turning to the employee’s second argument concerning inconsistencies in dates for disability findings, the Board stated that the judge had based his disability findings on dates that were inconsistent with the evidence that had been adopted. The insurer argued that it could be inferred the judge ordered incapacity benefits from March 2012 to June 2013, based on physical injuries.  The Board noted, however, that the parties had stipulated that the physical injuries had resolved as of May 2013.

Dates chosen by a judge to terminate or modify benefits must be based on a change in the employee’s medical or vocational condition.  In this case, the Board stated, there was no evidence on record suggesting a foundation for the judge’s selected dates.

The Board vacated the judge’s decision, recommitting the matter for further review.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in a work-related accident, you may be entitled to benefits, including the payment of medical expenses and lost wages. At the Massachusetts firm of Pulgini & Norton, our work injury lawyers help individuals and families assert their right to workers’ compensation benefits. To discuss your claim with one of our experienced attorneys at no cost, contact our office at (781) 843-2200 and set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Reviewing Board Recommits Case When Judge May Have Been Biased and Failed to Rule on Objections in Medical Depositions, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, June 22, 2017

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

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