Fantasia's Case, No. 08-P-1494 (Mass. Ct. App. 11/02/09).
The Massachusetts Court of Appeals held that the insurance carrier was not prejudiced by the late filing of an employee's claim. Therefore, the claim was not barred.
What it means: In Massachusetts, an employee may be able to file a workers' compensation claim after the limitations period and in contravention to the notice requirements if there is proof that the insurer was not prejudiced by the delay.
Summary: A machinist/welder was exposed to beryllium dust for many years. He developed lung disease. The worker filed a claim for benefits after the one-year statute of limitations expired. His employer's insurance carrier argued that it was prejudiced by the delay, and therefore, the claim should be barred. The Court of Appeals pointed out that a worker can exceed the limitation period where he can show that the carrier did not suffer prejudice as a result of his delay. The court explained that prejudice is generally found when: 1) the carrier is injured by the employee's failure to receive prompt medical treatment which causes his condition to deteriorate; or 2) the carrier was unable to conduct a thorough investigation and gather evidence of causation.
The progressive, incurable nature of the worker's disease meant the carrier's ability to examine him earlier would not have prevented or alleviated the injury. The injury occurred because of a well-known occupational hazard that was recognized by the employer, rather than a single incident. Therefore, additional investigation of causation was not necessary and the carrier could not show prejudice. The court affirmed the finding that the carrier was not prejudiced.
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January 4, 2010
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