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Massachusetts: Estate May Not Maintain Wrongful Death Against Directors of Nonprofit Employer

March 21, 2014 (2 min read)

The estate of a residential treatment counselor at a mental health clinic may not maintain a wrongful death action against two directors of the mental health association that employed the decedent, held the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.  The counselor was fatally attacked by one of the facility’s residents.  The estate filed suit against the directors and others contending the defendants were liable under common law since the directors voted to adopt and enforce certain workplace policies and client admissions polices, and failed or declined to adopt and enforce safety policies and staffing and training requirements that reasonably would have prevented the attack. The high court held the action was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the state workers’ compensation act, that although the directors technically were not the decedent’s employer, they were immune since they could not act individually, and only as part of the board of directors, which governed the employer.  The court acknowledged that the term "employer" did not include nonprofit entities, as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, that were exclusively staffed by volunteers.  The employer, while a nonprofit entity, was not so exclusively staff.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to

See Estate of Moulton v. Puopolo, 2014 Mass. LEXIS 129 (Mar. 14, 2014) [2014 Mass. LEXIS 129 (Mar. 14, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 111.02 [111.02]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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