Benefits not blocked for mason in court-ordered treatment program
Case name: MacDonnell's Case, No. 11-P-1637 (Mass. App. Ct. 07/19/12).
Ruling: The Massachusetts Appeals Court held that a stone mason did not have to repay the benefits he received while he was in a court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation program.
What it means:
In Massachusetts, a worker is not required to repay benefits he received while he was committed to a court-ordered alcohol treatment program.
Summary: A stone mason for a city injured his back at work. He suffered from back spasms and radiating pain to his ankle. After the injury, he also developed various psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety. The mason sought workers' compensation benefits and was awarded partial incapacity benefits. Later, he sought permanent and total incapacity compensation. He was incarcerated for 82 days pending trial for a federal offense and also spent time in a court-ordered alcohol treatment program. An administrative judge ordered the mason to repay the benefits he received while he was incarcerated and in the alcohol treatment program. In a case of first impression, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that the mason did not have to repay the benefits he received while in the alcohol treatment program.
The city argued that the court-ordered alcohol treatment program was equivalent to incarceration, entitling it to recoup benefits it paid. The criminal sentencing judge acknowledged that the treatment program was considered "the same as probation." The court said that any deprivation of liberty the mason experienced during the treatment program did not approach incarceration. He was able to leave the program during the daytime, and he volunteered to attend. The court found that the mason's commitment to the treatment program did not amount to incarceration.
The mason did not challenge the denial of workers' compensation benefits during the 82-day period when he was incarcerated and "had no freedom of movement or earning capacity."
The court found that based on an impartial medical examiner's report, the evidence showed a causal relationship between the mason's work-related physical injury and his subsequent psychiatric disability.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 17, 2012
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