CP #2001-40384, Grouzalis v. Port Auth. of NY & NJ
DIVISION OF WORKERS'COMPENSATION
BERGEN COUNTY DISTRICT
PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY,
Claim Petition No. 2001-40384
B E F O R E:
HONORABLE PHILIP A. TORNETTA
Judge of Compensation
A P P E A R A N C E S:
For the Petitioner: CAMPBELL, LYNCH & ORTIZ
BY: BRIAN CAMPBELL, ESQ. and THOMAS LYNCH, ESQ.
For the Respondent: DONALD F. BURKE, ESQ.
BY: HOWARD CONKLING, ESQ.
The petitioner, Fran Grouzalis, (“petitioner”) filed a Dependency Claim Petition alleging that on September 11, 2001, her husband Ken G. Grouzalis, (“decedent”) sustained an injury by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment with the respondent, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ( “respondent”), resulting in death. The parties have stipulated that decedent was employed by respondent on September 11, 2001, the decedent died as a result of the terrorist attack upon the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001 and that respondent is presently paying petitioner workers compensation benefits pursuant to the workmen’s compensation laws of the State of New York. The parties further stipulated that the only issue before the court is whether or not New Jersey has jurisdiction for petitioner’s claim for dependency benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-13.
Statement of Facts
The petitioner and decedent were married on September 5, 1965. One child was born of the marriage, Lisa Marie, who is presently 32 years of age. Petitioner and decedent had lived together continuously in New Jersey since their marriage in 1965, first in Jersey City, New Jersey until 1978, when they relocated to Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Petitioner continues to reside in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
Except for serving in the United States Marine Corps from 1966 through 1967, decedent worked for the respondent, in various job capacities, continuously from 1963 until his death on September 11, 2001. Petitioner testified that decedent first started working in the mailroom and then the stockroom at the Port Authority Building in Manhattan. At various times, while working in the stockroom in New York, decedent would be sent to work on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel and Holland Tunnel. Petitioner described decedent as a “rover” reporting to these assignments, sporadically in order to fill in for a vacationing employee. However, when decedent was not sent to New Jersey he would work in Manhattan. Petitioner testified that she does not recall the dates or the exact length of time of these assignments, but at the completion of each assignment, decedent would return to his job in New York. Thereafter, decedent worked in respondent’s Real Estate Department, Accounting Department and Law Department, all of which were located in New York. At one point, for approximately six months, while assigned to the Real Estate Department, he worked from a trailer at Port Newark in New Jersey. However, at the end of this six month period, he returned to working in New York. When decedent was assigned to the Accounting Department, at times, when needed, he would perform audits at Newark Airport and other Port Authority facilities in New Jersey, however, his home office remained in Manhattan and he would return to work in Manhattan when he completed working in New Jersey. Petitioner does not recall any of the dates when decedent worked in New Jersey while assigned to the Accounting Department in New York.
Petitioner further testified that decedent worked as a Property Manager at the World Trade Center in New York for approximately ten years from 1990 until September 11, 2001 and that during this time period he did not work at any Port Authority locations or facilities in New Jersey.
On cross-examination, petitioner testified that she is receiving New York Workmen’s Compensation benefits at a rate of $400.00 per week. She received $880,000.00 from the 9/11 Fund and some money from the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Petitioner described the times when decedent worked in New Jersey as temporary assignments, after which decedent would return to his job in New York. Petitioner does not recall the length of time of any of the assignments in New Jersey.
Felecia Davidson testified on behalf of respondent. Ms. Davidson is employed by respondent as a manager in the Work Force Management and Alignment Division in the Human Resources Department. Ms. Davidson is familiar with the policies and procedures of the respondent and the record keeping of the Human Resources Department. Ms. Davidson reviewed respondent’s employee records for decedent. (R-2 Evid and R-3 Evid) Based upon her review of these records, Ms. Davidson testified to decedent’s employment history with respondent. From 1986 until his death on September 11, 2001, decedent worked for the respondent at the World Trade Center in New York. From 1984 to 1986, the decedent worked in respondent’s Finance Department in New York. From 1974 to 1983, decedent worked in respondent’s Comptroller’s office, in New York. From 1971 to 1974, decedent worked in respondent’s Personnel Department, in New York. From March 1970, through July, 1970, decedent worked in respondent’s Real Estate Department in New York. From 1969 to 1970, decedent worked in respondent’s Engineering Department and Procurement Department, both in New York.
Under cross-examination, Ms. Davidson acknowledged that while an employee may be assigned to a department with offices located in New York, the employee may be told to report to work on a particular day to a location other than where the department offices are located.
In a Worker’s Compensation case, the burden rests upon the petitioner, who must persuade the trier of fact by a preponderance of the credible evidence on each and every element of her claim. Perez v. Pantasote, Inc., 95 N.J. 105 (1984).
The Workers’ Compensation Court is statutory, with limited jurisdiction. Unlike some states, New Jersey’s Workmen’s Compensation Act does not have an extra-territorial jurisdiction provision and each case, therefore, requires consideration of the particular facts. Connolly v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 317 N.J. Super. 315, (App. Div. 1998). Traditionally, an injury in New Jersey will trigger jurisdiction in the New Jersey compensation court. Boyle v. G. & K. Trucking Co., 37 N.J. 104, 108 (1962). So too, where New Jersey is the place of employment contract or hiring. Gotkin v. Weinberg, 2 N.J. 305, 307 (1949); Rivera v. Green Giant Co., 93 N.J. Super. 6, 11 (App. Div. 1966), aff’d o.b., 50 N.J. 284 (1967).
However, residency in New Jersey alone is not a sufficient basis for jurisdiction. Wenzel v. Zantop Air Transport, Inc., 94 N.J. Super. 326 (Cty. Ct. 1967) aff’d o.b. 97 N.J. Super. 264 (App. Div. 1967). Likewise, the mere fact that the respondent, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a bi-state New Jersey and New York agency does not confer jurisdiction in New Jersey over a claim based on an injury incurred in New York . Connolly, supra , 317 N.J. Super. at 321.
New Jersey might be the appropriate forum when there is residency in New Jersey and there are significant employment contacts and more than casual employment services performed in New Jersey. Wenzel , supra, 94 N.J. Super. at 335; Parks v. Johnson Motor Lines, 156 N.J. Super. 177, 181 (App. Div. 1978); Beeny v. Teleconsult, Inc., 160 N. J. Super. 22 (App. Div. 1978).
In the present case, I find that until his death on September 11, 2001, the decedent had been a resident of New Jersey for approximately 37 years and an employee of respondent continuously from 1963, except for the time when he was in the military service from 1966 through 1967. Decedent sustained an injury at the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment with the respondent, which resulted in his death. There was no evidence that New Jersey was the place of employment contract or hiring. From 1963 to 1986, decedent was assigned to work in different capacities in respondent’s mailroom, stockroom, Finance Department, Comptroller’s Office, Personnel Department, Real Estate Department, Engineering Department and Procurement Department, the offices of which were all located in New York. For approximately the last 15 years of his employment with respondent, from 1986 until 2001, the decedent worked only at the World Trade Center in New York and at no time did he work in New Jersey.
I find petitioner’s testimony that decedent worked at various times in New Jersey prior to 1986 not to be credible. She produced no evidence to corroborate her testimony. She does not know any of the dates decedent worked in New Jersey and she does not know the length of time of any work assignments in New Jersey, except for a 6 month period when she alleges decedent worked at Port Newark. Petitioner’s testimony has failed to persuade this court by a preponderance of the credible evidence that decedent either had significant employment contacts or performed more than casual employment services in New Jersey.
Based upon all of the foregoing , I conclude that there is no basis for New Jersey to assume jurisdiction of petitioner’s claim for dependency benefits and the claim petition is dismissed with prejudice.
I will allow a stenographic fee to Global Court Reporting Services in the amount of $450.00 to paid by respondent.
Respondent shall prepare and submit to the court an order which conforms with this decision.
Dated: April 14, 2008
Philip A. Tornetta
Judge of Compensation