Total Incapacity Benefits Award Recommitted After Massachusetts Employer Denied Due Process
In Ayotte v. Lahey Health System, Inc., a hospital worker apparently hurt her back when she lifted a box at work in late 2011. Following unsuccessful medical treatment, the employee underwent back surgery in the following year. Despite this, the worker’s pain purportedly continued, and she did not return to work.
The hospital accepted liability for the worker’s injury, and she received Section 34 total incapacity benefits. At a workers’ compensation conference, however, an administrative judge refused to award the employee Section 34A permanent and total incapacity benefits. In addition, the judge denied the hospital’s request to discontinue the employee’s temporary disability payments.
Next, the hurt worker was examined by an impartial doctor pursuant to Section 11A of the workers’ compensation law. Although the administrative judge admitted the neutral physician’s testimony into evidence, he also stated additional medical testimony may be introduced due to the complex nature of the worker’s harm.
After a hearing on the matter, the administrative judge denied the hospital’s request to discontinue the worker’s benefits. Instead, the judge awarded the employee ongoing Section 34A payments for her back and secondary harm beginning in March 2014. The hospital then filed an appeal with the Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board. In its appeal, the woman’s employer argued the administrative judge committed error when he issued his decision before the hospital had the opportunity to submit additional medical evidence. The hospital also claimed the judge should not have awarded the worker benefits for her secondary injuries, based on the record before him.
According to the Board, a workers’ compensation judge is required to keep the parties apprised of any material changes in a case or risk violating the fundamental requirements of due process. The Board stated the hospital was denied its right to due process when the judge closed the record before he received the hospital’s medical evidence after stating he would wait to issue his decision until such information was made available to him. Because of this, the Board ordered that the judge’s decision be vacated and the case recommitted.
In addition, the Board stated the exact nature of the hospital worker’s secondary condition was in dispute. As a result, the Board ordered the administrative judge to clarify what constituted the employee’s secondary condition, if applicable after considering the additional medical evidence offered by her employer.
If you were hurt in a Massachusetts workplace accident, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The knowledgeable attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are here to help you navigate the often confusing process of filing your workers’ compensation benefits claim. To speak with a caring Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about your rights, do not hesitate to contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call at 800-367-0871.
Ayotte v. Lahey Health System, Inc., Department of Industrial Accidents Reviewing Board Decision No. 031674-11 (August 20, 2015)