Articles Posted in Workers Compensation

Each year, thousands of employees suffer devastating injuries while at work. Many of these accidents could be avoided if employers complied with applicable federal and Massachusetts health and safety laws. According to these regulations, employers have a duty to maintain a safe job site. This includes fixing broken equipment or fixtures, providing appropriate safety protections, and ensuring that employees obtain appropriate training based on their job assignments and duties. Beyond the regulations, an employer can be held liable for injuries to its employees that are the result of its negligence or recklessness.

The Boston Globe recently reported that an ammonia leak at a Stavis Seafood warehouse in South Boston has resulted in the death of one of the company’s employees. The four surviving employees stated that they smelled ammonia toward the final hour of their shift, engaged the emergency shut off valve, and attempted to exit the warehouse as quickly as possible. The fifth employee working that night, however, did not survive. Reports indicated that the ammonia fumes were so severe that firefighters and hazmat crew members were unable to enter the building upon arriving at the scene.

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The law of negligence provides compensation for injured parties who suffer harm as the result of another person’s negligence. This doctrine extends not only to average laypersons but also to government employees. Over time, the law of negligence as applied to government actors has developed, leading to a different standard that applies in cases in which public officials or agents act carelessly. One of the primary differences between a negligence lawsuit against an individual versus against the government is that the injured party must provide the government with notice of the intent to file a lawsuit before initiating the action. There are also limits on the amount of damages that an injured layperson can recover from the government for a tortious act.

A Massachusetts appellate court recently considered a tort claim filed against the government. In Landry v. Massachusetts Port Authority, the plaintiff filed a claim seeking damages from a port authority in Massachusetts as well as the city in which the port authority operated. The plaintiff, who worked as a delivery driver for a commercial laundry service, alleged that he was injured at the Worcester Regional Airport when a motorized sliding gate malfunctioned and pinned him to a metal bar. The man was at the airport for the purpose of delivering a clean set of uniforms for the airport employees.

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In the recent case of DiCarlo v. Suffolk Construction Co., the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts was asked to consider two companion cases involving job-related injuries that involved similar issues.

The first case involved an electrician who injured his back on a job site. The employer’s workers’ compensation carrier provided benefits to compensate the man for his medical bills and missed paychecks, which amounted to roughly $282,000. The injured worker also brought a negligence action against the owner of the construction site and the job manager. Both of these defendants filed third-party indemnification actions against a subcontractor involved with the job. The parties reached a tentative settlement, but the lower court denied approval of the settlement. According to the lower court, the settlement’s allotment of 35 percent of the amount to the worker’s pain and suffering was incorrect and would prevent the insurance carrier’s lien from attaching to the portion of fees allotted as pain and suffering damages. The parties appealed, and the appellate court reversed the lower court’s holding.

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There are many issues that arise in the workers’ compensation field. One of the most common issues to arise in the beginning of a workers’ compensation claim is whether the injured worker was an employee of the company or employer named in the claim or lawsuit.

In a recent case, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts determined whether an “alternate employer endorsement” in a staffing business’ workers’ compensation policy provided an employer with immunity from liability for injuries sustained by one of the employer’s workers during the course and scope of employment. In Molina v. State Garden, Inc., a worker was assigned through a staffing agency to work at a produce processing facility. While working there, the worker suffered injuries to his back and filed a workers’ compensation claim seeking benefits.

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