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Jurisdiction: Is New York or New Jersey the correct place to hear this claim?

Claimant Gerald Catalano was injured at work delivering packages for UPS in Staten Island, New York. But he filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey, telling the Judge that “it would be to his benefit to seek compensation under New Jersey’s jurisdiction rather than New York as he would be entitled to a permanent disability award and a higher weekly benefit.” UPS asserted a defense of ‘lack of jurisdiction’ and moved to dismiss the claim petition.

How is jurisdiction established in New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Courts? The Courts look at the following factors:

1. Residence of the petitioner. This is simple: does the claimant reside in New Jersey? Even if the injured worker was injured in another state, and the contract of hire stated that another state’s workers’ compensation law would be applied, a resident of New Jersey can claim New Jersey jurisdiction based upon residence. In Parks v. Johnson Motor Lines, 156 N.J. Super. 177 (App. Div. 1978), the appellate panel found that the New Jersey residence of an injured worker and the fact that a substantial part of his employment was carried out in New Jersey was sufficient for New Jersey jurisdiction even though the accident occurred in Pennsylvania and the contract of employment provided that North Carolina’s law would govern.

Residence alone, without the presence of the other factors, is not likely sufficient to create jurisdiction in New Jersey.

2. Respondent’s location. Is the respondent located in New Jersey? If not, the Court will consider ‘significant contacts’ with New Jersey, such as selling products here, soliciting business in New Jersey, or advertising in New Jersey.

3. Place of Hire. A contract of hire made in New Jersey, by itself, is not enough to create jurisdiction in New Jersey workers’ compensation courts.

4. Location of Accident. If the accident which injured the employee took place in New Jersey, while the petitioner was in the course and scope of her employment, then jurisdiction in New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Court is created.

5. Place where the contract of hire was made; and

6. Place where workers’ compensation jurisdiction was established by agreement between the parties. Williams v. Port Authority, 175 N.J. 82, 87-88 (2003).

In Catalano the petitioner admitted that he lived in Staten Island, worked out of the Staten Island UPS terminal, and that he was delivering in Staten Island when the injuries occurred. However, the claimant argued that he was a member of a Teamster’s local based in New Jersey and the name of the business unit he reported to was the ‘Central Jersey Division.’ The claimant also stated that he took his initial employment physical at UPS’s Edison, New Jersey plant (ten years earlier) and drove as a ‘probationary employee’ for two weeks in New Jersey at the start of his employment (also ten years before the accident).

The Workers’ Compensation Judge ruled that Catalano could not establish jurisdiction for his claim in New Jersey court. The ruling was found that the employment took place in New York, as did the residence of the claimant and the place of injury. The claimant’s minor contact within New Jersey were not enough to establish jurisdiction in NJ WC Court.

Case: Catalano v. UPS, N.J. App Div. 39-2-7061 (Decided March 9, 2010).

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