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Further Evidentiary Findings Required in Massachusetts Repetitive Stress Injury Workers’ Compensation Benefits Case

A Massachusetts workers’ compensation award must adequately reveal the evidentiary basis and analysis on which it was based. In LaValley v. Republic Parking, Board No. 016230-11, a woman who was employed as a money counter apparently developed nerve compression and carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of the repetitive movements she made at work. After the medical treatment the worker initially received failed to provide her with relief, her physician ordered her to work part-time and refrain from lifting objects weighing more than ten pounds. He also recommended that the employee undergo bilateral carpal tunnel surgery. Although the worker left her position as a money counter in June 2011 in order to undergo surgery, the operation was not performed due to payment issues. The employee never resumed working.

Almost one year after she stopped working, the employee was examined by an impartial doctor pursuant to § 11A of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law. At a hearing over the worker’s request for § 35 partial incapacity and other workers’ compensation benefits, an administrative judge admitted additional medical evidence due to the complex nature of her repetitive stress injury. Following the hearing, the judge stated he credited the additional medical testimony offered.

According to the testifying doctor, the worker suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome in each hand that was causally related to her job as a money counter. The physician stated the employee also suffered from additional unrelated injuries that were made worse by her job duties. As a result, the doctor found that the worker suffered from temporary partial disability that did not affect her lower extremities. Because of this, the medical professional determined that the employee should undergo carpal tunnel release surgery and refrain from engaging in repetitive activity.

After considering other evidence offered at the hearing, the judge stated he also credited the testimony of a vocational rehabilitation professional who testified that the worker could maintain employment performing a number of customer service duties. The judge then ordered the worker’s former employer to pay her § 35 maximum partial incapacity benefits beginning on the date she stopped working. He also issued a medical benefits award that included bilateral carpal tunnel surgery under §§ 13 and 30. Finally, the judge awarded the employee § 34 total incapacity benefits beginning on the date of her carpal tunnel surgery and continuing until she was released by her physician to return to work.

Next, both parties appealed the judge’s decision to the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board. According to the employer, the judge inappropriately determined that the woman suffered from a limited earning capacity without providing any basis for his decision. The Board agreed and stated the judge failed to provide any explanation or analysis in support of his conclusion regarding the employee’s earning capacity. Because an administrative judge’s decision must sufficiently reveal the basis for his or her findings in a Massachusetts workers’ compensation case, the Board overturned the judge’s § 35 partial incapacity benefits award and recommitted the case for further evidentiary findings regarding the worker’s current earning capacity.

If you suffered a repetitive stress injury at a Massachusetts workplace, you should discuss your rights with an experienced Boston workers’ compensation attorney. The hardworking lawyers at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are available to help you receive the financial compensation you deserve based on the severity of your work-related harm. To discuss your right to recover workers’ compensation benefits with a knowledgeable attorney, please contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

LaValley v. Republic Parking, Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board No. 016230-11 (March 13, 2015)

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