Massachusetts Court Explains Employer Liability for Intentional Torts

Generally, employees who are injured while on the job are limited to seeking workers’ compensation benefits, as the exclusivity provision of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act) precludes them from pursuing civil claims against their employers. There are exceptions to the exclusivity provision, however, that permit for the imposition of liability on an employer that causes a plaintiff’s harm. The exceptions to the exclusivity rule were the subject of a recent Massachusetts decision in a case involving a law firm employee seeking redress for harm caused by willful acts. If you sustained losses due to someone else’s reckless or wanton acts, it is smart to consult a Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked at the defendant’s law firm. She was his only employee at first, but over time he added more members to his team. He belittled and verbally attacked the plaintiff on a frequent basis, and screamed and shouted in her face.

It is reported that the plaintiff eventually stopped working for the defendant. She subsequently filed a lawsuit against him, alleging he intentionally caused emotional distress and asserting other claims. The defendant moved for the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, on the grounds that that they were barred by the Act’s exclusivity provision. His motion was denied and the case was tried. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and the defendant appealed.

Employer Liability for Intentional Torts

Unless an employee waives their right to workers’ compensation benefits under the Act when they are hired, the Act supersedes common law causes of action for injuries incurred during the course of employment. As a result, claims for negligence, gross negligence, deliberate and wanton conduct, and recklessness against an employer are often barred by the exclusivity rule. There are, however, exceptions to the general rule.

The exclusivity proviso, in particular, will not exclude a lawsuit against an employer or coworker who commits an intentional tort that is not in the employer’s best interests or within the scope of employment. Here, the trial court determined that the plaintiff’s claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress fell under the exception to the exclusivity rule, stating that being subjected to such intentional torts was not an accepted risk of conducting business. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision, finding the trial court’s reasoning to be valid.

Meet with a Dedicated Massachusetts Attorney to Assess Your Rights

While the exclusivity provision of the Act bars most claims against employers, there are exceptions to the rule.  If you suffered personal injuries due to the intentional acts of your employer,  you may be owed compensation and it is smart for you to meet with an attorney to assess their rights. The dedicated lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, are adept at handling complex personal injury matters, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf, to provide you with a strong chance of favorable outcome. You can reach us through our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.


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