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$19K Settlement After Garage Falls on Worker Keeps Him from Suing Employer

19 Sep, 2023 Frank Ferreri

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Fall River, MA (WorkersCompensation.com) -- The trade off that comes with workers' compensation benefits typically means that an injured worker who settles a claim can't turn around and sue in tort for the same injury.

Such was the case in Ward v. Schnurr, No. 22-P-372 (Mass. App. Ct. 09/13/23), where a worker involved in a garage mishap settled his workers' compensation claim for a lump sum payment of $19,000 and later ran into the exclusive remedy rule when he tried to sue his employer.

While working at a residential property in the service of his employer, a worker experienced injuries to both of his legs when a wall in the dilapidated garage he was sent to demolish and remove fell on him.

After seeking workers' compensation benefits from his employer, the worker sued the principal of the employer.

The trial court dismissed the claims, finding that the principal was immunized from suit based upon the settlement of the workers' compensation claim.

The worker appealed.

Under Rhode Island law, which governed in this case because that is where the workers' compensation settlement was reached, by pursing a workers' compensation claim and accepting settlement funds, a plaintiff forgoes any additional claim against his employer. The exclusivity provision of Rhode Island's workers' compensation statute precludes a subsequent negligence suit against an employer.

Thus, the appeals court agreed with the trial court that the worker could not allege a negligence claim in the wake of his workers' compensation settlement.

"It is a basic precept of workers' compensation schemes that an employee's remedy against an employer for injuries suffered on the job is generally limited to the remedy available under workers' compensation law," the court reasoned in ruling against the worker on his appeal.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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