Massachusetts Court Discusses Third Party Liability for Work Injuries

Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation laws generally preclude people who suffer injuries in the workplace from pursuing civil claims against their employers. People hurt at work may be able to recover damages from third parties that contributed to or caused their harm, however. Generally, they must establish that the negligence of the third party caused their harm; otherwise, they will be denied compensation, as demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts personal injury case. If you were injured at work, you should meet with a skillful Cape Cod personal injury lawyer to determine whether you may be able to pursue claims against parties other than your employer.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff worked for a roofing company. The defendant hired the plaintiff’s employer to remove snow from a flat roof on an apartment building. While on the job site, the plaintiff fell off of the roof and sustained critical injuries. He then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, setting forth claims that it negligently failed to provide adequate fall protection on the roof.

Allegedly, prior to trial, he moved in limine for an order allowing him to introduce evidence of certain publications and regulations issued by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), but the court denied his motion. The jury attributed thirty percent of the fault for the accident to the defendant and seventy percent of the fault to the plaintiff, and therefore, returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff filed an appeal, asserting that the trial court erred in excluding the OSHA regulations.

Establishing Liability for a Fall at a Work Site

On appeal, the court found that while a violation of a regulation can be deemed evidence of negligence, the plaintiff did not demonstrate that the OSHA materials he sought to introduce were relevant and admissible for that purpose. Instead, he only intended to use them to establish the standard of care.

The appellate court noted that the defendant failed to explain how OSHA regulations were relevant to establishing the standard of care that the defendant, a property owner, owed under common law. In fact, the plaintiff failed to mention the common law standard of care that applied at any point in his appeal.

The appellate court explained that, contrary to the plaintiff’s argument, safety regulations do not create a new standard of care, and could not be used as grounds for demonstrating the defendant’s liability for negligence per se. Finally, the appellate court stated that the judge was within her discretion in determining that the OSHA regulations did not apply because the plaintiff was not the defendant’s employee and the fall did not occur at a construction site. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Confer with an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

While the law typically precludes people hurt at work from seeking compensation in tort claims against their employers, they have the right to pursue damages from other people responsible for their injuries.  If you sustained harm in a workplace accident, you should confer with an attorney regarding your possible claims. The Cape Cod premises liability attorneys of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III take pride in helping injured people fight to protect their interests, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us via the form online or at 888-262-6664 to set up a meeting.


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