NJ Appellate Court Upholds Workers’ Compensation Decision

NJ Appellate Court Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

Northfield, NJ – January 20, 2014 – The Appellate Division recently upheld a previous decision of a New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Judge to provide workers’ compensation to a Harrah’s employee represented by the firm of Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, finding she was within the scope of her employment as she was leaving the premises, even though the contact of the collision occurred in a public street “off premises.”

On September 19, 2012, a motor vehicle accident occurred where a client of Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo was seriously injured while in the process of driving her vehicle out of the employee’s parking lot at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City.

Normally, accidents occurring on employer owned or controlled parking lots are considered compensable, but accidents that occur off premises or during a normal commute to or from work are not generally considered compensable.

As the client was exiting the parking lot, the front part of her vehicle entered onto MGM Boulevard, a public road, at which time she was struck on the drivers’ side door of her vehicle by another car traveling on MGM Boulevard.

An emergent motion was filed with the Workers’ Compensation Court seeking medical and temporary disability benefits. The employer contested liability, primarily on the basis that, because the contact causing the injury occurred on a public road, it was an “off premises” accident, which disqualified the employee from benefits.

The Judge of Compensation considered all the evidence presented, including photographs of the accident scene, a videotape of the accident, the affidavit of our client, the police report, and briefs filed by the parties. The Judge also made two personal inspections of the accident location, before rendering his decision. Based on the evidence presented, the Judge concluded that the case was compensable and entered an Order compelling workers’ compensation benefits. The employer, Harrah’s Casino, appealed the decision.

The Appellate Division held oral argument in Trenton on January 6, 2014 and rendered a decision on January 17, 2014 upholding the previous decision of the Workers’ Compensation Judge. The Appellate Division found that, under the facts of the case, our client was still within the scope of her employment because she was legally still in the process of leaving the premises, even though the contact of the collision occurred in a public street “off premises.“

Frank Petro, a founding partner at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, handled the Motion and argued the Appeal. Mr. Petro said, “This decision is a reminder that workers’ compensation is intended to protect employees and, therefore, the statute should be liberally interpreted. We are glad the Appellate Division agreed with the Trial Judge and concluded, given the particular facts of the case, just because the contact of the collision happened in a public street did not automatically disqualify our client from workers’ compensation benefits. The Court took a broad common sense approach and agreed that the employee factually and legally was still in the process of leaving her place of employment. Therefore, she was entitled to the protection of the workers’ compensation law.”

Steven Lubcher, an Associate at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo, helped prepare the Appellate Brief. “This case is a great example of how the Workers’ Compensation system is supposed to be interpreted in a way that protects the employee consistent with the law’s intended purpose. Neither the Trial Judge nor the Appellate Court felt the law should be interpreted in a technically rigid fashion to deprive an injured worker of her rightful entitlements.”

 

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