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When an employee returns to work following a work injury, in many states that ends the workers’ compensation case, but not in New Jersey. In our state, that just moves the case to the final stage of permanency benefits for loss of function of the body member. The availability of loss of function awards following temporary and medical benefits explains why so many workers whose injuries occur in other states try hard to file a claim petition in New Jersey.
New Jersey, like all states, has rules on when someone who is injured in another state can file a petition in the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation. The rules on jurisdiction are well explained in the recent reported decision in Williams v. Raymours Furniture Co., Inc., A-3450-15T4 (App. Div. April 19, 2017).
The case involved an injury to Keith Williams in the State of New York. Williams lived in New Jersey but worked in Suffern, New York in a warehouse. He tripped over a hand truck in 2014 in the New York warehouse, fracturing his elbow. The New York Workers’ Compensation Board directed the employer to provide medical treatment and indemnity benefits. When these benefits ended, Williams filed a claim petition in New Jersey for partial permanent disability benefits based on loss of function in the arm.
Raymours Furniture Company answered the claim by denying jurisdiction in New Jersey. Williams moved to strike the defense of lack of jurisdiction, but the Judge of Compensation ruled in favor of Raymours Furniture. The Judge noted that the accident happened in New York State, and petitioner always worked in New York State.
Williams appealed to the Appellate Division and argued that he was hired in New Jersey and lived in New Jersey. He pointed out that Raymours Furniture had called him at his home some time ago in Paterson, New Jersey to offer him a job as a warehouse worker. Williams accepted the offer during the phone call while he was in his home in Paterson. Williams therefore argued that New Jersey did have jurisdiction to entertain his permanency claim petition.
The Appellate Division agreed with Williams and reversed. The Court noted that New Jersey recognizes jurisdiction when an injury occurs in New Jersey, when the employment takes place in New Jersey or when the employee is hired in New Jersey. In this case the Court concluded that Williams was hired in New Jersey under the basic law of contracts. An offer was made and it was accepted in New Jersey when Williams agreed to take the job. That phone call established the place of contract in New Jersey. Further, Williams lived in New Jersey, so these two contacts with the state were sufficient for New Jersey jurisdiction.
There are many claims like this in New Jersey where the claim was accepted and paid in New York or Pennsylvania, only for the claimant to file a formal claim petition in New Jersey after the end of medical and temporary disability benefits. This is permitted so long as New Jersey has jurisdiction over the case. The receipt of permanency benefits is not considered a duplicate of temporary disability benefits because they are completely different benefits: temporary disability based on wage loss, and permanency benefits based on loss of function.
John H. Geaney, Esq., is an Executive Committee Member and a Shareholder in Capehart Scatchard's Workers’ Compensation Group. Mr. Geaney concentrates his practice in the representation of employers, self-insured companies, third-party administrators, and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act. Should you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Mr. Geaney at 856.914.2063 or by e‑mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.