Massachusetts Court Discusses Exclusivity Provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act

In Massachusetts, people hurt at worker can often recover workers’ compensation benefits but are barred from pursuing personal injury claims against their employer by the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act. While the Act may ultimately bar a plaintiff’s claim against her employer, however, a defendant may not be able to prove that it constitutes grounds for dismissal at the onset of the case, as demonstrated in recent Massachusetts opinion in which the court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. If you suffered bodily harm due to another party’s negligence, it is advisable to speak to a trusted Cape Cod personal injury lawyer to evaluate your options for seeking compensation.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was employed as a machinist for a company that was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the defendant. She suffered injuries while using a machine and subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, asserting claims of negligence and negligent supervision and averring that it failed to provide a safe workplace, reasonably supervise the worksite, or properly train its employees.

Allegedly, the defendant moved for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that it was immune from civil liability under the exclusivity provisions of the Massachusetts Worker’s Compensation Act (the Act). The court denied the defendant’s motion, and it appealed.

Determining Whether an Action is Barred by the Exclusivity Provision of the Act

The Act’s exclusivity provision bars an employee from recovering workers’ compensation benefits and then suing her employer to recover damages for an injury covered by the Act. To determine whether a personal injury action is barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Act, a court will consider whether the employer is an insured party liable for the payment of compensation benefits and whether the employer directly employs the employee.

In the subject case, the appellate court explained that, contrary to the defendant’s assertion, the plaintiff did not bear the burden of proving that the defendant was not her direct employer in response to the defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. Instead, the defendant was required to establish it was her direct employer.

Further, the appellate court disagreed with the defendant’s assertion that the facts in the plaintiff’s complaint implied that the defendant was her direct employer, noting that assessing whether an employer-employee exists is a fact-intensive inquiry. Based on the foregoing, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Massachusetts Attorney

People who suffer bodily harm due to the negligence of others are often entitled to damages, but there may be statutory limitations that preclude them from pursuing claims against certain parties. If you suffered harm due to a defective product, you should meet with an attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue. The Cape Cod lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III can advise you of your rights and help you to seek any damages you may be owed. You can contact us via the form online or at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.


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