Massachusetts Appellate Court Holds Produce Company Immune From Negligence Suit by Temp Worker

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.

The produce processing company’s workers’ compensation insurer approved the employee’s claim for benefits. According to the insurance policy, the benefits were awarded to the worker pursuant to an “alternative employer endorsement,” which named the produce company as the alternate employer. In addition, the certificate of liability insurance stated that the produce processing company was an “additional employer.”

After receiving workers’ compensation benefits, the plaintiff filed a complaint against the produce processing company in Massachusetts state court, contending that the produce processing company created an unreasonably hazardous work environment. In support of this argument, the plaintiff alleged that the company required him to lift heavy rolls of material used for wrapping above his head.

In response to the complaint, the produce processing company filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In the alternative, the company moved for summary judgment. At trial, the court dismissed the injured worker’s complaint, finding that the exclusivity provision of Massachusetts’ Workers’ Compensation Act prevented the man from obtaining recovery in a civil suit against the produce processing company.

The injured worker appealed, and the Massachusetts Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The appellate court determined that the state laws providing employers with immunity from civil liability for work-related injuries barred the worker’s suit. According to the court, the “alternative employer endorsement” provided the produce company with insurance coverage for any workers’ compensation claims made against it related to the work the employee performed for the company. More specifically, section 18 of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act requires the employer to be named as an additional insured in order for the employer to receive coverage for an injury to an employee.

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries while at work, you may be entitled to compensation. At The Law Offices of John S. Moffa, our dedicated and experienced workers’ compensation attorneys can help you evaluate your case and make the right decision when it comes to bringing your claim. Although there are similarities between a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit, it is crucial to follow the appropriate procedures when seeking benefits. Our compassionate and personable staff can help you at each step of the way. Call us now at 1-866-476-0828 or contact us online to set up an appointment today.

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