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Massachusetts Appeals Court Reviews Ongoing Dispute in 44-Year Old Workers’ Compensation Case

Like other types of cases involving personal injury or wrongful death, Massachusetts workers’ compensation cases involve a variety of deadlines. For the injured worker, these deadlines typically include the time by which notice must be given and a claim must be filed.

Of course, there are also deadlines that may apply to others who may be involved in the administration and/or litigation of a claim for work-related injury benefits. These parties may include the employer, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier, and possibly others, depending upon the circumstances of a particular case.

It should also be noted that, while most work injury cases are resolved in a relatively short period of time (especially if there is no permanent disability to the worker), this is not always so. As the case below proves, some such cases can go on for many years.

Facts of the Case

A recent case considered by the Massachusetts Appeals Court originally arose in 1976, when an employee of the defendant town suffered a fatal industrial accident. After the worker’s death, the town’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier began paying weekly benefits to the deceased employer’s widow. This continued for many years (at least until 2016). About 10 years into the payments to the widow, the insurer began paying a supplemental cost of living adjustment (COLA) pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws ch. 152, § 65(2). For several years, the insurer was reimbursed for the COLA payments by the Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund (trust fund). In the early 1990s, however, the town joined a self-insurance group that opted out of participation in the fund.

Over the years, the town received “some” reimbursement from the fund for the COLA payments, but the fund ultimately ceased reimbursing the town. Eventually, the insurer began seeking the COLA payments directly from the town, and a dispute arose. An administrative law judge ruled that the insurer’s claims were subject to the two-year statute of limitations found at 452 Code Mass. Regs. § 3.03(3) (1999). The insurer appealed, and the reviewing board reversed, holding that the regulation upon which the town relied was inapplicable and that the town was responsible for all of the insurer’s COLA claims, not just those arising in the past two years. The town appealed.

Decision of the Court

The appellate court affirmed the board’s decision. Pointing out that the town had identified no specific error in the board’s reasoning for its decision in the insurer’s favor, the reviewing tribunal found support for the board’s ruling in the plain language of the regulation and statute at issue. Per the statute, the trust fund was not obligated to reimburse a non-insuring or self-insuring public employer that chose not to participate in the fund. Thus, entities such as the town were thus not entitled to reimbursement from the fund, and the town was required to fully reimburse its insurer for the COLA benefits at issue.

To Learn More About Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

There are important deadlines in Massachusetts workplace accident cases, both for the injured party and for others involved (such as the employer and insurance company). When such matters are not handled in a timely fashion, important rights can be forfeited. If you have been hurt at work or if you have lost a loved one due to an on-the-job accident, you need reliable legal advice concerning your rights. For an appointment to discuss your case with an experienced work injury lawyer, please call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664. We help injured individuals throughout Cape Cod, including those in Hyannis and Plymouth.

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