Massachusetts Produce Company Was Immune from Negligence Suit by Temporary Worker Provided by Staffing Company – Molina v. State Garden, Inc.

Considering that workers’ compensation laws are specifically designed to simplify the process by which an injured worker receives benefits (such as payment of medical expenses or temporary total disability) due to an on-the-job injury, a surprising array of issues can arise.

For instance, sometimes there is a dispute as to whether the worker was an actual employee under the law. Disagreements can also arise as to which of multiple “employers” must pay a claim.

In the recent case of Molina v. State Garden, Inc., the Appeals Court of Massachusetts was presented with the question of whether an “alternate employer endorsement” in a staffing company’s workers’ compensation insurance policy satisfied the requirements of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 152, §§ 15 and 18 such that the injured employee’s employer was immune from tort liability.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a man who was hired by a staffing company that provided temporary workers to a processing facility owned by the defendant produce company. In 2010, the man hurt his back while working for the produce company.

He applied for and received workers’ compensation benefits from the staffing company’s workers’ compensation insurer. The policy under which the man’s benefits were paid contained an “alternate employer endorsement” that named the produce company. The certificate of liability insurance also listed the produce company as an “additional employer.”

Proceedings in the Trial Court

The man filed a lawsuit against the produce company, alleging that it had created an unreasonably hazardous work environment by, among other things, requiring him to repeatedly lift heavy rolls of wrapping material over his head.

The produce company filed a motion for dismissal of the man’s complaint, or alternatively for summary judgment. The trial court dismissed the man’s complaint, holding that his claim was barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

On appeal to the Massachusetts Court of Appeal, the court affirmed the trial court’s order, holding that the produce company was immune from suit under the Act. Since the endorsement in question made the produce company an insured employer “with respect to workers’ compensation claims brought against it for workplace injuries,” it satisfied § 18 of the Act. In so holding, the court found that the naming of the produce company as an additional insured was the precise type of agreement envisioned under § 18, and thus the produce company was immune from suit. The court also found that suit was barred by a waiver and release that the man had signed.

To Speak to a Lawyer About Your Work Injury

Whether you’ve just been hurt or have been receiving workers’ compensation benefits for a while, the Cape Cod workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III are here to help you with your work-related injury claim. To schedule a free initial consultation, call us at 888-262-6664. Our offices are conveniently located in Hyannis and Plymouth. We accept cases throughout the state of Massachusetts.

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