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To the editor: A number of years ago, the state of New Hampshire allowed employees to sue their fellow workers if they felt that the fellow employee-usually the company owner or immediate supervisor-either intentionally did something to cause their injury or neglected to do something, causing an injury.
During the first year of this travesty of justice, there were more than 100 suits, many of these wrecking perfectly innocent people's lives by forcing them to hire their own counsel and defend themselves in, all too often, frivolous lawsuits. Added to the financial outlay was the angst of supervisors who thought they had "done the right thing" but found out they were getting sued for it.
The rest of the country has much to learn from this experience.
Fortunately, when the state realized what was happening, this was reversed and the exclusive remedy doctrine restored.
There is ample recourse for employees who feel that their employer intentionally put them in harm's way. In Massachusetts, an employee can bring a Section 28 matter, an action that implies the employer intentionally placed the employee at risk. The insurer may elect not to defend the employer. However, these actions, and the threat of these actions, have sent ripples throughout the employer community, leading to self-policing of workplace safety.
To undermine the exclusive remedy doctrine not only undermines the reforms passed over the past several years but also will cause every person thinking about accepting that management position to think twice and ask themselves: "Do I want to put myself in the position of getting sued?"
If the exclusive remedy doctrine is seriously eroded, there will be an explosion of litigation affecting ordinary people, not big business.
There has to be another way for an injured employee to express his or her anger at a co-worker, supervisor or company owner.
Robert K. Tuman
Compensation Claims Review Corp.