This case raised an important issue of first impression under Massachusetts workers compensation law. The plaintiff worked for a temporary staffing agency (his general employer) and was sent out on a job assignment to the defendant (his special, or alternate, employer). He was injured on the first day of the assignment, while performing a task under the direct control of the defendant on the latter’s premises. Later, after collecting workers compensation benefits, he sued the defendant on the theory that the company had not been his employer under workers compensation law and so did not enjoy an employer’s statutory immunity from suit. The trial judge granted the defendant summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed. He argued that the defendant could not be regarded as his employer because the benefits he received were paid on the temp agency’s workers compensation policy.
As NELF noted in its brief, filed with co-amicus Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the defendant was named as an additional insured on an “Alternate Employer Endorsement” attached to the temp agency’s policy. As NELF successfully argued several years ago in another legal context, the effect of being named as an additional insured on a policy is to create a direct relationship between the insurer and the additional insured for the latter’s own liabilities, without regard to which party paid the premium for the additional coverage or who was identified as the named insured on the policy. Of crucial importance in this connection is the fact that the workers compensation act specifically permits a special employer, like the defendant, to agree with the general employer that it, not the general employer, will be liable for workers compensation, provided that the special employer is insured. The “Alternate Employer Endorsement” reflects precisely such an agreement and provides precisely such insured status to the defendant. In fact, as NELF pointed out, this particular endorsement form has been approved by the Massachusetts Division of Insurance for use in such situations, a fact of which both parties in the case were unaware.
NELF further showed that such endorsements are used nationally for this purpose, typically in the exact same standardized form found here (the form is promulgated by the National Council of Compensation Insurers). NELF called the Appeals Court’s attention to the use of the form in other states (New York, North Carolina, Texas, Delaware, Minnesota), where the form is officially approved and sometimes even prescribed for this use. Molina’s contentions that the use of the endorsement amounted to “an illusory promise” and a nefarious “artifice” were therefore without merit. In short, NELF concluded that State Garden was clearly the relevant insured employer for purposes of the work-related injury Molina suffered and that the company was therefore entitled to employer immunity from suit.
In its decision issued on September 3, 2015, the Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed with NELF that, under the endorsement, the plaintiff’s special employer was immune from suit under the Workers Compensation Act.
On September 23, 2015, Molina applied for further appellate review by the Supreme Judicial Court. This application remains pending.