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Massachusetts Court Defers to Judge’s Determination Regarding Employee Credibility in Workers’ Compensation Benefits Case

An appellate court will generally defer to the findings of fact made by an administrative judge in a workers’ compensation case.  In In Re Sosa’s Case, a man hurt his spine and left shoulder in an industrial accident in May 2007.  Following the incident, the man received § 34 temporary total incapacity workers’ compensation benefit payments through November 2007.  In January 2012, the worker again sought § 34 benefits related to the same accident.  In addition, the man asked an administrative judge to award him § 35 medical benefits.

Following a hearing, the judge stated the employee was not credible and denied the man’s workers’ compensation claim.   After that, the employee asked that a § 11 impartial medical examiner be appointed in the case.  Although the doctor stated the worker continued to be impaired by the 2007 industrial accident, the examiner said the man’s injury required no further treatment.  In addition, the neutral physician stated it was his opinion that the employee was capable of performing full-time work with restrictions.

Next, the administrative judge adopted the medical examiner’s findings but rejected the doctor’s conclusions because he relied on the worker’s statements, which the judge previously found to be not credible.  In response, the employee sought review by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

On appeal, the worker argued the administrative judge made an arbitrary and capricious determination regarding his credibility.  He also asserted that the judge’s decision was not based on the evidence that was included in the record, nor did it take into account the substantive elements of his workers’ compensation benefits claim.

The Appeals Court of Massachusetts first stated that an administrative judge is not required to adopt the conclusions made by an impartial doctor in cases where the judge determined the facts on which the report was based were not credible.  Additionally, the appellate court said findings of fact and credibility assessments in a workers’ compensation case may only be decided by an administrative judge.

Since the judge observed the worker’s testimony during two separate hearings at which the man’s description of the industrial accident were inconsistent and found that the worker’s pain complaints were not credible, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the administrative judge’s decision denying his request for additional workers’ compensation benefits.

If you or a close family member was hurt in a Massachusetts industrial accident, 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 recover the financial benefits you deserve based on the severity of your workplace accident harm. To speak with a caring workers’ compensation advocate today, do not hesitate to call Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. at 800-367-0871 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

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

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