Accident & Occupational Disease
Renner v. AT&T
218 N.J. 435 (2014)
Decided July 30, 2014
Cathleen Renner created and executed contingency plans for AT&T under a telecommuting agreement that allowed her to work several days at home. Her job involved making and receiving numerous calls and e-mails under conditions driven by deadlines and often necessitating long working hours. Ms. Renner died of a pulmonary embolism after working for long hours on a particular project. While the petitioner’s medical expert opined that sedentary work for long hours was the precipitant of this pulmonary embolism, the respondent’s medical expert concluded that it was impossible to state, within a reasonable degree of medical probability, that it was work effort rather than other risk factors which actually caused Ms. Renner’s death. Both a judge of compensation and the Appellate Division rendered decisions in favor of awarding workers’ compensation dependency benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-7.2. However, the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and held that Ms. Renner’s death was not compensable because there was a failure to show that the extended sitting she did here constituted the kind of “work effort or strain involving a substantial condition, event or happening” required to support a cardiovascular claim under the statute.
Lindquist v. City of Jersey City Fire Department
175 N.J. 244 (2003)
Decided February 11, 2003
The New Jersey Supreme Court, in reversing the Appellate Division and reinstating the decision and award of the workers' compensation judge, established standards for the admissibility and reliability of medical evidence, expanded the statutory presumption of work disability in N.J.S.A. 34:15-43.2 to paid firefighters and outlined the legal standards for establishing an occupational disability.
NJ Superior Court – Appellate Division
Singletary v. Wawa
406 N.J. Super. 558 (App. Div. 2009)
Decided April 23, 2009
In December 2001, the petitioner injured her cervical spine working for Wawa. AIG, Wawa’s carrier at the time, paid compensation benefits for that injury. (Note: In January 2002 Wawa became self-insured for compensation claims.) In August 2007, petitioner was found to need cervical surgery and filed a motion for temporary and medical benefits alleging occupational exposure starting in November 2003. She also requested an order to have either AIG or Wawa pay compensation benefits until liability for the occupational exposure was determined. The compensation judge granted her request and ordered AIG to pay benefits without prejudice, subject to reimbursement should Wawa later be deemed liable. Subsequently, the judge deemed Wawa liable by finding that the 2003-2007 occupational exposure aggravated the 2001 injury. Accordingly, he ordered that Wawa reimburse AIG for its expenditures relating to the 2007 exposure claim. The Appellate Division affirmed the compensation judge’s decision.
Schorpp-Replogle v. NJ Manufacturers Ins. Co.
395 N.J. Super. 277 (App. Div. 2007)
Decided July 30, 2007
The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the workers’ compensation
judge and held that tinnitus qualifies as a compensable disability under N.J.S.A. 34:15-36 where the condition: (1) is due in a material degree to exposure to harmful noise at the workplace; (2) materially impairs the employee’s working ability or is otherwise serious in extent; and (3) is corroborated by objective medical testing.
Frank Capano v. Bound Brook Relief Fire Co. #4
356 N.J. Super. 87 (App. Div. 2002)
Decided December 17, 2002
The Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the workers' compensation judge that petitioner, a volunteer firefighter age 93 at the time of the accident at issue, was entitled to temporary and permanent disability benefits. Specifically, respondent's argument that petitioner's disabilities were attributed to his age rather than the firehouse accident was rejected.
Michael Levas v. Midway Sheet Metal, et
337 N.J. Super. 341 (App. Div. 2001)
Decided February 23, 2001
The Appellate Division reversed and remanded the workers' compensation judge's decision which found that petitioner, in an occupational case involving multiple employers, was totally and permanently disabled and that each of the petitioner's liable employers was to pay an equal amount. The Appellate Division rejected an equal payment process and outlined the procedure for measuring liability in cases of multiple employment. The appellate court determined that there was a series of exacerbations and aggravations in petitioner's disease by various employment until petitioner finally became totally disabled.
Division Reserved Decisions
Ross v. City of Asbury Park
06–28659; decided July 28, 2008 by the Honorable Leslie A. Berich
Petitioner alleged compensable injury as a result of mental stress created by prolonged exposure to a hostile work environment. Respondent denied these allegations. After applying the Goyden test along with other relevant legal principles, the Judge of Compensation found that there were objectively stressful working conditions peculiar to the petitioner’s working environment which entitled the petitioner to workers compensation benefits.
Pulejo v. Middlesex County Consumer Affairs
10-10115; decided February 11, 2015 by the Honorable Russell Wojtenko, J.W.C.
Petitioner's occupational claim alleged heavy, continual exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke from co-workers over the course of many years. After a highly detailed examination of the evidence, the judge found that the petitioner proved all the elements of a compensable claim. However, the judge was compelled to dismiss the claim with prejudice for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-34 because the petitioner failed to file his claim until many years had passed after the date he knew the nature of his disability and its relation to his employment.
Fitzgerald v. Walmart
12-10294, 10296; decided September 26, 2014 by the Honorable George H. Gangloff, Jr., J.W.C.
Petitioner filed a motion to compel medical treatment based on allegations that she suffered injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment with the respondent. The judge of compensation, however, denied her motion and dismissed her accident and occupational exposure claims because the petitioner failed to meet her burden of proving that conditions of the workplace or the risks of her employment played a role in her injury or need for medical treatment.
Johnson v. Campbell Foundry
07-11564 decided February 23, 2011 by the Honorable Phillip A. Tornetta, J.W.C.
Petitioner filed a dependency claim petition pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-13 alleging that her husband's death from lung cancer was due to exposure to inhaled substances including silica. The respondent argued that his petitioner's disease was due to past cigarette smoking rather than workplace exposures. The Judge of Compensation found that the petitioner proved the decedent's cancer was a compensable occupational disease as defined by N.J.S.A. 34:15-31 and awarded the petitioner dependency benefits.
J.K. v. Audubon Savings Bank
10-6282; decided July 27, 2011 by the Honorable George H. Gangloff, Jr., J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged that she needed medical treatment due to occupational distress arising from actions taken by her supervisor. The judge, however, dismissed petitioner’s motion and held that her emotional condition was not proven to be the result of objectively stressful work conditions.
J.T. v. UMDNJ
07-12153; decided November 29, 2010 by the Honorable Sue Pai Yang, J.W.C.
Applying N.J.S.A. 34:15-31 and the Goyden rule, the Judge of Compensation found that the petitioner failed to meet the burden of proving the two critical elements of an alleged occupational psychiatric disability: (1) that her working conditions were objectively stressful; and (2) such conditions were peculiar to her particular workplace.
P.W. v. State of New Jersey
03-12534; decided January 27, 2010 by the Hon. Ingrid French, J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged that she was unable to continue working as a corrections officer due to anxiety and work-related stress arising from administrative actions taken by her superiors, sexual harassment/hostile work environment, etc. The judge, however, dismissed petitioner's claim and held that the emotional and/or psychiatric condition which allegedly made her unable to continue work was not proven to be the result of stressors characteristic of or peculiar to her particular place of employment.
Pucha v. Twin Oaks Bloc
06-15314 decided July 1, 2009 by the Honorable Virginia M. Dietrich, J.W.C.
Petitioner filed an amended claim petition that joined two carriers for the respondent and alleged injuries to his shoulders, arms, neck and back due to both an accident and exposure to repetitive lifting, bending, carrying, and moving heavy objects. At trial, the judge of compensation addressed multiple issues. While finding insufficient evidence of the accident alleged, the judge also found compensable injuries to each shoulder which manifested at different times. Accordingly, she noted that these injuries should have been treated as separate injuries in separate claim petitions.
Ashton v. Port Authority of NY & NJ
McQuade v. Port Authority of NY & NJ
03-34615 and 03-35725: decided September 4 and 9, 2008 by the Hon. Bradley W. Henson, Sr., J.W.C.
Petitioners’ occupational claims alleged pulmonary disease caused by multiple exposures to a variety of known and unknown respiratory irritants. However, the judge found that neither petitioner met the burden of proving by sufficient objective medical evidence that he suffered a compensable pulmonary impairment or any material lessening of ability to work as a result of the alleged respiratory symptoms.
Iaconetti v. Armour Products
00-28359 decided September 20, 2006 by the Honorable Diana Ferriero, J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged that she was exposed to a number of noxious substances while working for the respondent. However, the judge found that petitioner failed to sustain her burden of proving such exposure actually occurred and caused the pulmonary conditions alleged where there was no objective, credible evidence in support of such claims.
Updegrove v. Peerless Tube Co.
03-25 decided June 26, 2006 by the Honorable Stephen Tuber, J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged his wife’s death was caused by exposure to noxious pulmonary irritants while she worked as an assembly press worker at respondent’s manufacturing plant. The judge found that the petitioner met his burden of proving such exposure causally contributed to his wife’s death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Based on his analysis of its legislative history, the judge applied N.J.S.A. 34:15-13 retroactively to determine the level of dependency benefits to which petitioner was entitled.
Strader v. NJ Turnpike Authority
03-15381 decided March 20, 2006 by the Honorable Bradley W. Henson, Sr., J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged his lung cancer was caused by intense and continual exposure to toxic emission fumes while he worked as a toll collector at a particularly busy and polluted interchange on the NJ Turnpike. After carefully weighing the evidence, the judge found that the petitioner met his burden of proving his lung cancer was the result of many years of intense exposure to carcinogens peculiar to his work environment.
Micchelli v. Hoffman-LaRoche
01-29463 decided November 1, 2005 by the Honorable Arnold B. Goldman, J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged that he contracted two pulmonary conditions, asbestosis and bronchitis, as a result of exposure to asbestos dust and other chemicals while employed by the respondent. However, after carefully weighing the medical evidence, the judge determined that the petitioner failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that he contracted asbestosis or any pulmonary condition worse than mild bronchitis as a result of the alleged occupational exposures. The claim was dismissed with prejudice.
Baez v. County of Atlantic
2002-13548; 23263; 17099 decided June, 2004 by Hon. Cosmo A. Giovinazzi, III, J.W.C.
Petitioner’s motion for medical and temporary disability benefits alleged that she needed medical treatment as a result of an accident on May 5, 2003. However, the carrier for the employer on that date refused to provide treatment and argued that petitioner’s condition was the result of “innocent aggravations” of injuries that occurred prior to May 2003 and that there was no “new accident” that occurred on that date. Based on a careful review of the medical testimony and documentation, the Judge of Compensation concluded that the petitioner’s condition was indeed the result of a new accident on May 5, 2003 and ordered the carrier on-the-risk that day to pay the petitioner’s medical and temporary disability benefits related to that accident.
Lamy v. City of Brigantine
91-38484; 99-23263 decided January, 2004 by Hon. Cosmo A. Giovinazzi, III, J.W.C.
Petitioner’s motion for medical and temporary disability benefits alleged that she needed replacement surgery on her right knee as a result of a fall during work. However, the Judge of Compensation concluded that the petitioner failed to prove there was a causal relationship between the condition of petitioner’s right knee and her fall at work based on inconsistencies the Judge found between the petitioner’s testimony and the medical records and between the opinions of petitioner’s medical witnesses and commonly accepted medical opinion about how such knee injuries usually occur. The motion was denied.
Walden v. Excel Construction & Design Co., et al.
00-28142; 02-24967; 02-24969; 02-26343; decided September 29, 2003 by the Honorable Leslie A. Berich, J.W.C.
In early December of 2001, petitioner received a 35% partial total award for a back injury he suffered while working for Excel. For that injury he was operated on, recuperated, and cleared to return to work. Petitioner subsequently worked for three employers. In late April of 2002, petitioner became unable to work due to back problems. He then filed a motion to reopen his claim against Excel, and he also filed claim petitions and motions for medical and temporary disability benefits against the three other employers. The compensation judge found that there was sufficient evidence for finding a causal connection between the petitioner’s inability to work and the tasks he performed for his last employer (Hall Construction). However, the judge could not find sufficient evidence of an unbroken causal connection between petitioner’s inability to work and the injury he suffered at Excel, nor could she find a causal connection between his inability to work and the jobs he did for the two middle employers. As a result, the judge found the petitioner’s last employer liable for the medical treatment and disability compensation related to petitioner’s present inability to work.
Wehmeyer v. Shop Rite Supermarkets
02-20851; decided September 16, 2003 by the Honorable Cosmo A. Giovinazzi, J.W.C.
Petitioner developed carpal tunnel syndrome, which she claimed was causally related to her job duty of repeatedly slicing deli meats for customers. The compensation judge found that there was sufficient evidence for finding a causal connection between the petitioner’s condition and her occupation, relying on the testimony of petitioner’s medical expert and his application of the standard of “reasonable” medical probability. On the other hand, the judge rejected the opinion of the respondent’s medical expert because it was improperly based on a standard of a “conclusive” (rather than “reasonable”) medical certainty.
Cowan v. Buffalo Steel
95-19166; 95-19217; 95-19225; 98-19220; 98-37837 decided May 23, 2003 by the Honorable Barbara Van Horn Colsey, J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged that occupational exposure to asbestos and carcinogens resulted in pulmonary disability and colon cancer. However, the judge found that the petitioner failed to establish by objective medical evidence the existence of any pulmonary disability or the existence of a causal relationship between the occupational exposure and colon cancer. The judge rejected the causal theory of colon cancer offered by petitioner’s medical expert because it ignored the potential role played by a number of well-researched factors and the expert’s testimony was somewhat self-conflicting.
M.D. v. East Jersey State Prison
01-11862, decided March 10, 2003 by the Honorable Bradley W. Henson, Sr., J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged that he was unable to work and in need of medical treatment as a result of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and retaliation by his supervisor. The judge granted petitioner’s motion for medical and temporary disability benefits and held that petitioner’s psychiatric condition made him unable to work as a result of stressors peculiar to his work environment.
Smith v. Waste Management, NJ
01-457, decided January 15, 2003 by the Honorable Lawrence G. Moncher, J.W.C. Although petitioner had preexisting pathology to his shoulders, the judge of compensation found that the work accident aggravated this prior condition. Therefore, the judge ordered surgery as recommended by petitioner's expert.
Borkowski v. Stores, Inc.
98-7113, decided January 6, 2003 by the Honorable Lawrence G. Moncher, J.W.C. In this claim for medical and temporary benefits, the judge of compensation rejected respondent's argument that petitioner's disabilities were the result of non-work related emotional problems and preexisting disabilities. Rather, the judge found that the work accidents aggravated her condition and that the respondent was responsible for medical treatment and temporary disability payments.
Young vs. CBI Services
95-027113, decided September 16, 2002 by the Honorable Elaine B. Goldsmith, J.W.C.
While Respondent provided treatment for petitioner’s left shoulder, left elbow, back and neck following an admitted accident, petitioner thereafter sought treatment for his right shoulder and both knees. The judge of compensation rejected the motion for medical and temporary benefits relating to the right shoulder and knees, but did require additional diagnostic testing and evaluation with respect to petitioner’s back condition.
Hayes vs. New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority
95-44723, decided August 12, 2002 by the Honorable Neale F. Hooley, J.W.C.
In reviewing petitioner's motion for medical and temporary benefits on her left carpal tunnel syndrome complaint in relation to her reopener petition, the judge of compensation considered that petitioner failed to complain of left hand problems in the original proceeding and that there had been a considerable length of time (5-6 years) since she last worked for respondent. The judge found that petitioner had failed to meet the burden of proof with respect to the motion at issue.
Webb v. Mid Hudson Clarklift of N.J., Inc.
00-10755, decided March 26, 2002 by the Honorable Lawrence G. Moncher, J.W.C.
Medical and temporary benefits were denied where petitioner could not establish that his contact with a pesticide at work either from a specific incident or as a continuing exposure was responsible for his current medical problems.
Marshner v. County of Monmouth
96-4349, decided August 20, 2001 by the Honorable Neale F. Hooley, J.W.C.
The overall disability and the appropriate credit for a preexisting condition were set by the judge of compensation where the petitioner established a causal relationship between her exposure to second hand smoke in her work environment and an aggravation of a pre-existing pulmonary problem.
Dowd v. Supermarket Distribution Services Corporation
95-10896, decided August 13, 2001 by the Honorable Philip Bolstein, J.W.C.
Petitioner failed to establish a causal connection between limited work exposure to benzene during her deceased husband’s employment that included painting duties and his death from Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Navarro v. Traycon Manufacturing Co., Inc.
97-36306, decided July 31, 2001 by the Honorable Elaine Goldsmith, J.W.C.
Where petitioner established a causal relationship between work environment that included dirt and fumes and petitioner’s interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, total disability was awarded. Respondent also failed to meet its burden of proof that disability was idiopathic rather than job related.
Santora v. Randolph Products Co.
97-27781, decided June 15, 2001 by the Honorable Neale F. Hooley, J.W.C.
Petitioner a batch maker exposed to various chemicals, established a causal relationship between work exposure and toxic encephalopathy which affected, among other things, petitioner’s cognitive abilities and rendered him totally disabled.
M.H. v. John C. Dolph Company
95-24363, 95-40788, 95-4112, 96-36603, decided March 26, 2001 by the Honorable Philip Bolstein, J.W.C.
While petitioner’s physical claims were dismissed for failure to meet the burden of proof, his claim for psychiatric occupational disease was found compensable. The workers’ compensation judge held that the respondent had not refuted the evidence of workplace harassment.
Carter v. Robert Wood Johnson
97-26410, 98-37480, decided February 7, 2001 by the Honorable Philip Bolstein, J.W.C.
The petitioner alleged an occupational disease as a result of performing her duties at work. The workers’ compensation judge dismissed petitioner’s claim, in light of the overwhelming evidence, showing that petitioner suffered from a prior injury that was most likely the cause of her condition.
Marino v. Kullman Industries
99-14405, decided January 17, 2001 by the Honorable Neale F. Hooley, J.W.C.
Since petitioner’s at home activities did not intentionally aggravate petitioner’s work-related back injuries, respondent was directed to pay for treatment and temporary benefits.
Morris v. Aramark
99-004143, decided December 22, 2000 by the Honorable Neale F. Hooley, J.W.C.
The petitioner injured her ankle in an industrial accident, and then later fell in her home, re-injuring her ankle. The workers’ Hooley compensation judge held that in situations where more than one accident or injury affects the same body part without medical evaluation between such accidents, the court must review the medical records of the multiple incidents and apportion disability on the basis of the objective medical evidence presented.
C.M. vs. Bell Atlantic, 98-6501
D.M. vs. Bell Atlantic, 94-48601
J.C. vs. Bell Atlantic, 98-37986
Decided December 11, 2000 by the Honorable Andrew M. Smith, J.W.C.
The judge of compensation consolidated claim petitions asserting psychiatric disability involving three different employees against the same respondent. In analyzing the facts and legal standards, the judge made awards in two cases and dismissed the third case.
Woolf v. Consolidated NDE, Inc.
97-028572, decided November 30, 2000 by the Honorable Terry Dailey, J.W.C.
The petitioner alleged an occupational disease relating to his duties as a radiographer. The Judge of Compensation held that although petitioner’s exposure to radiation was below the threshold set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the petitioner’s disease was caused to a material degree by his low-level radiation exposure.
Friedman v. SPX Corporate/Automotive Diagnostics
96-010234, 96-011741, 96-024841, decided October 23, 2000 by the Honorable Philip Bolstein, J.W.C.
The petitioner filed claims based on two accidents and an occupational disease. The workers’ compensation judge found that while the petitioner failed to prove any permanent disability with respect to the traumatic accident claims, he was totally and permanently disabled as a result of a degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis due to occupational exposure. Moreover, petitioner’s obesity was not considered a pre-existing disability by the judge.
Martins v. Proctor & Gamble
97-034715, decided September 27, 2000 by the Honorable Peter Calderone, J.W.C.
The judge of compensation found that petitioner’s lung condition, “spontaneous right pneumothorax”, was the result of a work-related accident and not an idiopathic event.
Vassallo v. No. Princeton Developmental Center
95-45610, decided July 31, 2000 by the Honorable Elaine B. Goldsmith, J.W.C.
Respondent sought to dismiss petitioner’s claim petition for lack of prosecution because petitioner failed to attend a scheduled medical examination. Petitioner then filed a motion to strike respondent’s defenses based on estoppel. The workers’ compensation judge denied respondent’s motion to dismiss, ordered petitioner to submit to an examination and denied petitioner’s motion to strike.
J.K. v. T.P.C.O.A.
95-008613, decided May 25, 2000 by the Honorable William L. Boyan, J.W.C.
The petitioner filed a motion for medical and temporary disability benefits alleging that he suffered from a bipolar disorder caused by a work-related back injury. The workers’ compensation judge denied the motion, finding that petitioner failed to carry his burden that the bipolar disorder was caused or aggravated by the work accident.
Owens v. H.M. Royal, Inc.
95-028918, 95-02989, decided May 2, 2000 by the Honorable William L. Boyan, J.W.C.
In this dependency case, the judge of compensation found that petitioner had failed to establish that her husband’s lung cancer and death was caused by the workplace exposure to asbestosis.
Drost v. General Motors Corporation
97-24973, decided December 3, 1999 by the Honorable Neale F. Hooley, J.W.C.
Petitioner alleged multiple occupational injuries from the same work activity. The workers’ compensation judge “stacked” the injuries and considered their cumulative effect.
S.C. v. Continental Baking/Interstate
89-32222, 90-15646 & 91-8482, decided July 29, 1999 by the Honorable Lawrence G. Moncher, J.W.C.
The workers’ compensation judge found that petitioner was entitled to compensation for psychiatric disability related to a hostile work environment.
Gavin v. Caesars Atlantic City
98-4083, 97-3373, 97-9513, decided July 9, 1999 by the Honorable Lawrence G. Moncher, J.W.C.
The petitioner sought medical and temporary benefits for multiple problems based on separate accident and occupational disease claims. Accepting petitioner’s treating doctors as more credible over respondent’s expert, the judge ordered specific treatments and benefits.
D.D. v. County of Monmouth
98-007416, decided May 18, 1999 by the Honorable Neale F. Hooley, J.W.C.
The judge of compensation found that petitioner’s anxiety and concern over her job security did not present an objective stressful working condition to establish an occupational disability claim.
Marrero v. Parsicon, Inc. (92-16066) and Marrero v. Panther Interiors (93-4189)
decided April 8, 1999 by the Honorable Philip Bolstein, J.W.C.
Where petitioner’s subsequent employment, without the intervention of additional trauma or physical insult, merely caused pain from a pre-existent condition to be manifested, liability for petitioner’s disability did not attach to the subsequent employer.
Loughney v. A.W. Meyers
96-1053, decided March 12, 1999 by the Honorable Lawrence G. Moncher, J.W.C.
In several rulings concerning various accidents and injuries, the judge denied reimbursement for chiropractive treatment but ordered orthopedic care for a knee injury. The judge declined to impose a 25% penalty on respondent since respondent had relied on its medical expert in denying.