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Massachusetts Appellate Court Affirms Reviewing Board’s Decision Denying Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In 2005, the employee who filed In Re Hines’s Case purportedly broke his ankle after he slipped and fell while working as a personal attendant in Massachusetts. As a result of his injury, the employee apparently underwent two surgeries. At the time, the worker received temporary total incapacity benefit payments. About two years later, the company that provided workers’ compensation insurance to the man’s employer sought to terminate the employee’s benefits. In response, the worker joined an additional claim for psychiatric benefits.

At a hearing before an administrative judge, the insurer argued that surveillance tapes and other evidence indicated the worker was no longer disabled. After considering the evidence offered, the judge ordered that the employee’s workers’ compensation benefits be discontinued. According to the judge, there was no reason the worker could not return to his prior position as a personal attendant. The Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board affirmed the judge’s decision, and the Appeals Court of Massachusetts then dismissed the case for lack of prosecution.

In 2010, the worker sought ongoing § 35 and other benefit payments based on his purported physical and mental deterioration. Another administrative judge ordered the parties to submit additional medical evidence before ruling that neither the worker’s physical or mental health had worsened due to his workplace harm. After that, the Board again affirmed the judge’s decision, and the man filed an appeal with the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

On appeal, the court first stated it was required to determine whether the judge’s findings and decision were supported by the evidence. After that, the court considered the worker’s assertion that the administrative judge’s order was arbitrary and capricious and exceeded her authority. According to the employee, the judge’s findings were not adequate and wholly ignored his vocational expert’s opinion.

After reviewing the record, the appellate court dismissed the worker’s claim that the judge ignored his testifying expert’s opinion because it was specifically discussed during a transcribed hearing before the judge. In addition, the administrative judge took judicial notice of the expert’s opinion on cross-examination at the request of both the man’s employer and the insurer. Because of this, the court held that the judge appropriately credited the vocational expert’s opinion.

Next, the Appeals Court stated the burden of showing the worker’s condition had changed since his prior evidentiary hearing was on the employee. The court then found that the judges’ decision stating the worker’s partial disability did not result from his 2005 fall was supported by the evidence offered at the hearing. Because of this, the appellate court declined to reexamine any questions of fact decided by the judge and found that her conclusion was not arbitrary or capricious.

Ultimately, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the decision of the Reviewing Board.

If you were hurt or someone close to you was killed in a Boston workplace accident, you should contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. Our hardworking lawyers are here to help you recover the benefits you may be entitled to following a work-related injury or loss. To discuss your rights under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law in more detail, give Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. a call today at 800-367-0871 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

In Re Hines’s Case, Mass: Appeals Court 2015

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