Workers' CompensationMassachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Award of Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefits for Injured School Teacher over Employer’s Chal

January 30, 20190

There are many different phases to the workers’ compensation claim process, from filing your claim to receiving reimbursement for your necessary medical treatments. After you have been awarded benefits, your employer and/or its insurance company may seek a modification of those benefits or outright discontinuation. Seeking counsel from a dedicated Boston workers’ compensation lawyer at the outset of your claim can help you ensure that you are in the best legal position possible to receive the maximum amount of recovery that you deserve, and to protect your right to benefits down the road.

In a recently decided opinion, the Massachusetts Court of Appeal considered an employer’s request to discontinue an injured worker’s permanent and total incapacity benefit payments. In 1998, the worker was awarded benefits as the result of a health condition that she sustained while working at a school that was undergoing renovations. Her classroom was closed to the construction, which she reported as causing noxious fumes, heavy exhaust, paint, thick smoke, and other chemical-related smells.

The woman filed a claim for benefits and the judge in her claim determined that her symptoms of nausea, pain in her extremities, dizziness, asthma, and cough were causally connected to her employment at the school and awarded her benefits, which she received from 1998 to 2017. At this time, the employer filed a complaint to discontinue the benefit payments. In response, the woman offered medical expert testimony and reports stating that she still suffered from a disability related to the school construction. The judge adopted the opinions in the evidence and denied the employer’s request for discontinuation.

The employer filed an appeal, arguing that the reports were filed late and that the doctor who authored the reports did not perform an examination of the employee in a close enough timeframe to when the report was created. It also alleged that the doctor listed the medical diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), which it alleged was not widely recognized in the medical field.

On review, the appellate court disagreed with the employer regarding the adoption of the reports noting that the lower court made clear findings regarding the woman’s continued disability. It also cited the portion of the report where the authoring doctor listed MCS as a diagnostic code in lieu of the official diagnosis of the worker’s condition. The term MCS was meant to be a shorthand for the long list of symptoms that the woman continued to experience as a result of her work-related exposure. The doctor relied on the more widely accepted diagnosis of Chronic Environmental Illness as the official designation of the condition that the employee suffered. As a result, the lower court affirmed the dismissal of the employer’s complaint seeking discontinuation of the worker’s permanent and total incapacity benefits.

If you were hurt at work, it is critical that you consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Boston who is knowledgable regarding the claims process. Our seasoned team of work injury lawyers is ready to assist you with all phases of your claim, including gathering evidence and obtaining medical examinations. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online to get started.

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