CP# 01-37560 Perez v. Abraczinskas Nurseries, Inc.
1 Port Center, 2 Riverside Drive
Camden, New Jersey 08103
November 2, 2005
Michael A. Pirolli, Esq.
Pirolli & Pirolli
PO Box 38
Bridgeton, NJ 08302
Marcia Stander Freedman, Esq.
Stahl & DeLaurentis,PC
1103 Laurel Oak Road
Voorhees, NJ 08043
Re: Perez v. Abraczinskas Nurseries, Inc.
C.P. # 2001-37560
This letter represents the opinion of the court in the above captioned matter on the issue of jurisdiction. The issue presented is whether there is sufficient nexus between the death of Juan Perez a/k/a Adrian Diaz at the respondent’s place of business in Catawissa, Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey.
Petitioners, Cirilo Perez Ruiz and Florencia Alavez are the father and mother of the decedent. They have brought an action for partial dependency on there behalf as well as the minor siblings of the decedent.
On November 22, 1999, the decedent, twenty-two years of age, was in the employ of the respondent as a laborer, riding on a trailer pulled by a vehicle both owned and operated by the respondent. Decedent fell from the trailer and was run over resulting in his death.
Petitioner alleges that the place of hire was in Vineland, New Jersey and an individual known as Don Benito was the agent of the respondent.
Jurisdiction for an accidental injury can be laid in the New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation when:
1. The injury occurs in New Jersey, or
2. New Jersey is the place of contract of hire, or
3. The employee resides in New Jersey, and there are some employment contacts in New Jersey.
There may be dual jurisdiction. That is, more than one state may invoke the provisions of its Workers’ Compensation Act. An injured worker may collect benefits in one state and then chose to pursue his remedy in another. For example, an employer may provide medical treatment and pay temporary disability payments under the law of Pennsylvania and then the employee may choose to invoke the jurisdiction of New Jersey. Assuming jurisdiction is established, New Jersey may enter an award granting benefits. Of course, the employer is entitled to credit for benefits paid in the sister state.
The petitioner, decedent’s father brought the action in Pennsylvania and after a full hearing on the issue of dependency, the case was dismissed. The respondent has paid all funeral expenses in an amount above the statutory amount found in the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Statute N.J.S.A 34:15-13(h).
From the stipulations and testimony presented I find the following to be the relevant facts. Santiago Cristobal Alavez, a co-employee of the decedent at the time of his death, met the decedent at the home of Don Benito in Vineland, New Jersey in 1997. Alevez, the decedent and approximately 20 others were there to see about work. Don Benito drove them to Pennsylvania where they worked at another farm before going to the respondent’s farm. Don Benito spoke English and acted as a translator when each of the individual, including the decedent were interviewed and provided the necessary identification before being hired by Peter Abraczinskas. The respondent farm grew Christmas trees and the cutting of the trees was seasonal. The decedent and some of the others returned over the next couple of year at the time of harvest and were rehired.
Apparently, the decedent had identification in the name of Adrian Diaz. It is stipulated that Adrian Diaz and Juan Perez were one in the same. The respondent employed between 70-150 laborers working on 20 different sites under the control of the respondent. Most of the individuals with whom decedent was working had worked a nearby tomato farm by the name of 3L’s before coming to the respondent. 3L’s was located nearby in Pennsylvania. The respondent did not provide lodging but the decedent lived with others in a nearby town. Don Benito (Benito Rimirez) was a working field foreman because of his bilingual ability to translate the orders to the laborers. Respondent employed several field foremen because Mexicans were not the only non-English speaking workers. While there is testimony that Don Benito rented the apartments for the group, there is no indication that he did so at the direction of the respondent. In fact, the apartments were used by the decedent and others while working at the tomato farm.
The place of hire was the respondent’s farm after securing the identification of the workers and the respondent has no direct contact with New Jersey. Each of the workers was a separate hire. The accident clearly is outside this jurisdiction and there is no other compelling reason to invoke jurisdiction here.
In light of the above there is no reason to deal with the issues of collateral estoppel or res judicata. The petitioner had due process in the forum of the accident and this claim is hereby dismissed. The respondent shall pay a stenographic fee to Jersey Shore, LLC. in the sum of $300.00. Respondent attorney shall prepare an Order consistent with the above findings.
Submitted this day of November, 2005 by:
Hon. Richard E. Hickey, III, ASJWC