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Smith Duggan Prevails on Appeal of Section 1(7A) Defense in Worker’s Compensation Case

Smith Duggan attorneys Christina Schenk-Hargrove and Matthew J. Walko successfully represented a major Boston hospital before the Massachusetts Appeals Court, which affirmed a favorable decision Attorney Schenk-Hargrove obtained at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA).

The case involved the “combination injury” defense under the Massachusetts Workers Compensation Act, G. L. c. 152, § 1(7A). The employee-claimant received benefits from a 2009 work injury. Her 2009 injury resolved, but she alleged that an unreported 2006 work incident was contributing to her current disability.

Smith Duggan, on behalf of the self-insured hospital, proved that the combination injury defense under § 1(7A) governed the parties’ legal rights and barred the claim. Section 1(7A) provides that when a pre-existing condition combines with a work injury to prolong disability or a need for treatment, then benefits are due only if the work injury remains a “major cause” of that disability or need for treatment. In this case, expert testimony confirmed that the employee suffered from a pre-existing degenerative back condition that was not caused by work, while her subsequent compensable work-related injury should have disabled her for no longer than a few months. The Appeals Court affirmed the administrative judge’s conclusion that the employee’s inability to work was caused by her pre-existing condition and not by her work-related injury.

See Maria Monteiro Pires’s Case, No. 13-P-985, 2014 WL 1236006 (Mass. App. Ct. Mar. 27, 2014).

Should you have any questions about a worker’s compensation issue, please feel free to contact Tamara Lee Ricciardone, Esq at tricciardone@smithduggan.com or 1-617-228-4450 or, Christina Schenk-Hargrove, Esq at cschenkhargrove@smithduggan.com or 1-617-228-4409. © 2014