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The Home Insurance Company v. Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-127-15)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   14-P-1356                                       Appeals Court   THE HOME INSURANCE COMPANY  vs.  WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TRUST FUND. No. 14-P-1356 Suffolk.     June 2, 2015. – September 3, 2015.   Present:  Vuono, Grainger, Blake, JJ. Workers’ Compensation Act, Reimbursement of insurer, Cost of living allowance.  Insurance, Insolvency of insurer. Practice, Civil, Standing.  Administrative Law, Agency’s interpretation of statute.  Statute, Construction.     Appeal from a decision of the Industrial Accident Reviewing Board.     Eric A. Smith (Donald E. Wallace with him) for the plaintiff. Douglas S. Martland, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendant. W. Frederick Uehlein & Dorothy M. Linsner, for Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Company, amicus curiae, submitted a brief. Joseph C. Tanski, Gregory P. Deschenes, & Kurt M. Mullen, for Massachusetts Insurers Insolvency Fund, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.      GRAINGER, J.  We are called upon to analyze certain rights and obligations resulting from the liquidation of a New Hampshire insurance company that issued workers’ compensation policies in Massachusetts.  At issue in this appeal is the company’s entitlement pursuant to G. L. c. 152, § 65(2), to reimbursement for cost of living adjustments (COLA, COLA increases), as prescribed by G. L. c. 152, § 34B, to eleven individuals receiving workers’ compensation benefits.  Both an administrative judge (judge) and the reviewing board (board) of the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) determined, albeit on different rationales, that the company was not entitled to reimbursement. Background.  The undisputed facts, excerpted below, are recounted in detail in the board’s comprehensive decision.   COLA payments as part of the workers’ compensation scheme. Persons receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts are entitled to receive annual COLA increases to reflect changes in the cost of living.  See G. L. c. 152, § 34B.  These COLA increases are funded, then subject to reimbursement, as follows:  Revenues to fund the defendant Workers’ Compensation Trust Fund (trust fund) are raised by an annual assessment[1] on employers pursuant to G. L. c. 152, § 65.  Under normal circumstances (i.e., involving solvent insurers), the yearly assessments are collected from employers by their insurers such as the plaintiff  Home Insurance Company (Home), who transmit them to the trust fund.  The insurers then pay the COLA increases together with other monthly benefits to injured workers.  See G. L. c. 152, § 65(2).  This, in turn, entitles the insurers to reimbursement from the trust fund for the COLA payments on a quarterly basis.  Ibid. Home’s […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - September 4, 2015 at 4:12 am

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