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Massachusetts Appeals Court Upholds Double Benefits Award in Workers’ Compensation Case

When a worker is hurt due to an employer’s serious and willful misconduct, the employee may be entitled to recover double workers’ compensation benefits. In In re Svenson’s Case, a man was injured in a workplace altercation at a Massachusetts manufacturing facility. At the time of the incident, the worker was employed as an X-ray technician. The man’s job duties included using the X-ray machine to look for defects in company products. His supervisor was tasked with inspecting the X-rays generated by the technicians, providing guidance to workers such as the injured man, and communicating concerns up the chain of command.

In June 2009, the injured worker’s direct supervisor brought a complaint to a Level III supervisor. The Level III supervisor examined the employee’s work and stated it was fine. Later, the worker returned to the Level III supervisor in an attempt to discuss and understand the issues his direct supervisor found. According to the employee, he was told to leave because the Level III supervisor was tired of talking about the issue. When the worker refused, the Level III supervisor allegedly assaulted the employee. During the altercation, the worker was apparently choked by the Level III supervisor, and his head was smacked against a concrete floor.

Next, the injured X-ray technician sought workers’ compensation benefits for his purported depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. The worker claimed his condition resulted from the workplace altercation and his subsequent suspension. Although his initial benefits request was denied, an administrative law judge later ordered that the injured employee receive § 34 workers’ compensation benefits beginning on the date of the altercation.

On appeal, the hurt worker successfully joined a § 28 claim to his case. Under this provision, a worker who was injured as a result of an employer’s serious and willful misconduct may be entitled to receive double workers’ compensation benefits. After reviewing the testimony offered, the judge determined that the Level III supervisor had “powers of superintendence” over the worker and ordered the employer to pay the man double benefits based on the language of § 28. The Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board affirmed the judge’s decision, and the injured man’s employer appealed the case to the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

According to the appellate court, the Board found that the judge’s decision was not arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to the law because it was based on credible evidence. The court stated credibility determinations are to be made by an administrative judge and should be considered final by the Board and the appellate courts. Since the judge’s decision did not lack evidentiary support, and it was not erroneous as a matter of law, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the Board’s decision.

If you were injured at a Massachusetts workplace, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The caring attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to answer your questions and help you file your workers’ compensation benefits claim. To discuss your rights with a skillful Suffolk County workers’ compensation lawyer soon, do not hesitate to contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. online or call us at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

In re Svenson’s Case, Mass: Appeals Court 2015

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