Massachusetts Court Discusses Workers’ Compensation Claim Involving Allegations of Bias Against Judge in Conducting a Work Capacity Analysis

Work injuries take many shapes and forms, from relatively minor conditions that heal over time to life-altering conditions that leave the victim with permanent disabilities and physical pain. In a workers’ compensation claim, part of the determination regarding the amount of benefits you are entitled to receive involves assessing your ability to work and determining whether there are any types of work that are suitable for you in light of your new conditions. As experienced Boston work injury lawyers, we have assisted countless workers with ensuring that they receive the outcome that they deserve in a workers’ compensation claim.

Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals considered a claim where the insurer appealed an order awarding an injured worker benefits. The woman suffered injuries when she was attacked by a patient while working at a mental healthcare facility. The reviewing judge concluded that the attack resulted in a total and permanent disability for the woman and that she was not able to perform sedentary work of any kind. The insurer appealed this conclusion on the basis that the judge had a personal bias against a certain field of work that the insurer suggested the injured woman might be able to perform: telemarketing.

The appellate court reviewed the trial record to identify the allegedly biased statements that the judge made. Based on its review, the judge stated that telemarketing jobs were not a type of sedentary work that he traditionally considered when making a determination regarding an award of benefits because telemarketers were required to act in an obnoxious way at times. The only instance in which the judge indicated that he would consider a telemarketer job when determining an injured worker’s work capacity was if the injured worker had already performed work as a telemarketer.

The record also indicated that the insurer did not make any objection to the judge’s comments regarding telemarketing and his refusal to consider it for a work capacity analysis. The appellate court noted that a party must make an objection at the time the allegedly objectionable comment or event arises, or the party waives his or her right to challenge it later in the proceedings. Because the employer didn’t raise the issue of bias against telemarketing until after the initial hearing, the appellate court concluded that the employer waived its right to assert bias.

Turning to the lower court’s work capacity in general, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s assessment of the woman’s serious limitations. Evidence in the record showed that she was dyslexic, had a poor record as a student, and that she had a history of heavy duty work. All of these factors combined with her work injuries that rendered her able to lift only five pounds or less meant that the woman was facing dismal job prospects.

If you suffered injuries at work that have left you incapable of finding employment or that have left you with very few options regarding employment, contact our dedicated Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers today. We provide a free consultation to discuss your situation and whether you may be entitled to benefits and medical expenses reimbursement. Call us at 617-263-0060 or contact us online.

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