District of Massachusetts Remands Case Based on Workers’ Compensation Law Back to Middlesex County Superior Court

The rules and procedures that apply to a lawsuit can vary significantly between state and federal courts. Because of this, ensuring that a case is litigated in the appropriate court is important. In Doe v. Access Industries, Inc., an unnamed Massachusetts woman who was employed at the Cambridge office of a New York-based company sought workers’ compensation benefits after she was sexually assaulted at a work-related conference she attended at the direction of her employer. After learning the employer failed to purchase workers’ compensation coverage for its Massachusetts employees, the woman filed suit against the company in Middlesex County Superior Court, pursuant to § 66 of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law. According to the woman, her employer was strictly liable for her harm under the law.

Next, the employer removed the woman’s case to the District of Massachusetts, based on diversity of citizenship. The woman then asked the federal court to remand the case back to state court. In her motion for remand, the woman asserted that removal was improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c)because the lawsuit relied on the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law.

The District of Massachusetts first examined the purpose of the workers’ compensation law in the Commonwealth. According to the court, the law was designed to protect employees who suffer a serious or disabling workplace injury. Although the no-fault workers’ compensation law is typically the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, the court said an employer who fails to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage to employees may be sued in tort.

After that, the court examined the federal removal statute. The court stated the party seeking removal has the burden of demonstrating a federal court has jurisdiction in the case. Any doubts must be construed in favor of remanding a previously removed case back to state court. In addition, 28 U.S.C. § 1445 specifically states a lawsuit that “arises under” a state workers’ compensation statute may not be removed to federal court. The District of Massachusetts continued by stating removal is improper when a party’s cause of action was created by the state workers’ compensation law or when a plaintiff’s right to recover turns on the application of such a law.

The federal court next examined the facts of the case. According to the court, the woman’s complaint asserted that her tort claim was created by and brought pursuant to § 66 of the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law. The employer countered that the case was subject to removal because it was simply a common law tort action. After holding that Massachusetts law was unclear regarding whether a § 66 claim may be removed, the federal court stated all doubts must be resolved in favor of remand. As a result, the District of Massachusetts ordered that the woman’s lawsuit be remanded back to Middlesex County Superior Court.

If you were hurt at work in Suffolk County, you are advised to contact a knowledgeable Boston workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you protect your rights. The experienced attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are available to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve based on the severity of your workplace injuries. To discuss your right to recover workers’ compensation benefits with a seasoned advocate, contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. through our website or give us a call at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

Doe v. Access Industries, Inc., Dist. Court, D. Massachusetts 2015

Workers’ Compensation