Massachusetts Court Discusses Collateral Source Evidence in Personal Injury Matters

Workers’ compensation benefits may be available to those who are injured on the job. They may also be entitled to seek civil claims for damages if their injuries were caused by the negligence of someone other than their employer. The defendant will frequently try to submit evidence of the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation benefits during the civil proceedings, but they will almost always be barred from doing so since it would be detrimental to the plaintiff. A Massachusetts court recently addressed the issue of whether the converse is true, in a matter in which the plaintiff produced evidence of his workers’ compensation claim during a civil trial. If you were hurt in a dog a dog attack, you may be owed compensation, and you should speak to a skilled Massachusetts personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

According to reports, the plaintiff, a mail carrier, covered a route for one of his coworkers. The defendant’s dog approached him when he was delivering mail to the defendant’s house. He tried to give the dog a treat, but the dog attacked him, biting his wrist and shaking his head ferociously.  After the plaintiff removed his arm from the dog’s mouth, it bit him on the left leg. He managed to extricate himself from the dog, after which the defendant emerged from his home and inquired if the dog had “got” him.

The plaintiff allegedly sustained a wrist injury and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim. He then brought a civil complaint against the defendant, claiming liability under the dog bite law. The plaintiff moved to add proof of the workers’ compensation benefits he recovered after the attack into evidence at trial. The defendant argued that such information would be used as proof of causation and damages by the jury, and was therefore prejudicial. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion. The jury found for the plaintiff, awarding him over $300,000 in damages. The defendant then filed a motion for a reversal of the decision.

Collateral Source Evidence

The only question on appeal was whether the trial judge erred by allowing the plaintiff to provide evidence of his workers’ compensation claim. The appellate court explained that evidence of payments from a collateral source is normally excluded because it could lead juries to infer that the plaintiff is seeking a double recovery or that their claim is insignificant.

Despite the fact that the exact opposite circumstance occurred in this case, the appellate court found that such material was improperly introduced. It ruled that the evidence in question indicated to the jury that a third party had concluded that the defendant was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. The judge’s limiting instructions, however, were found to mitigate the possibility of prejudice. As a result, the ruling was confirmed.

Speak to a Dedicated Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you were hurt in a dog attack, you could be owed compensation, and it is smart to speak to an attorney regarding your potential claims. Attorney John S. Moffa of the Law Offices of John S. Moffa is skilled at helping people harmed by dog bites seek justice for their losses, and if you hire him, he will work diligently on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Moffa through the online form or by calling 508-362-5554 to set up a meeting.


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