Workplace injuries – Exclusive remedies applies despite contract violation

In a case currently being considered for publication, Janela v. Roman Asphalt Co., the issue of dual employment arose in the context of a government construction contract. The employer/paving company, Raebeck Construction won a contract for paving at Newark Liberty International Airport, which called for it to exercise direct control over the project and to certify that it did not share staff with any other company.

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New Jersey Doctors get temporary relief from PIP Fee Schedule

A coalition of medical groups led by the Medical Society of New Jersey has succeeded in getting a temporary delay in the enforcement of a new list of fee limits for treatment of injured motorists under personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Not surprisingly, the doctors have the support of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey. The significantly reduced fees were to take effect Monday October 1st, but the Appellate Division last Friday granted the stay pending arguments in Alliance for Quality Care v. New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. Doctors complained last year when the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) proposed a fee schedule that for the most part used Medicare figures rather than “the reasonable and prevailing fees of 75 percent of practitioners within the region” as stated in the statute. DOBI officials said they used the Medicare figures because they couldn’t find out doctors’ current charges; it remains to be seen whether the courts – or the legislature – will accept that explanation.

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Vicarious Liability for Homeowner

In an important decision rendered August 23, 2007, the Appellate Division concluded that where a car rented in New York and driven by a New York resident was involved in an accident in New Jersey with a New Jersey driver, New Jersey law would apply to shield the vehicle’s owner, Avis, from liability.

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Step Down Law Changes

Governor Jon S. Corzine has signed a bill, supported by both the New Jersey State Bar Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America-New Jersey, banning “step-down” clauses in commercial auto insurance policies. The clauses, in effect sanctioned by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2005 decision Pinto v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., said drivers not specifically listed in a commercial policy would be limited to the uninsured and under-insured motorist benefits in their personal policies, not the policy of the company for which they were driving. The practice was argued as unfair to both the business paying premiums for full coverage and to new employees who, through no fault of their own, weren’t listed on the policy. The bill, S-1666, was passed unanimously by both houses of the legislature and was sponsored by Senator Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Union), a trial lawyer whose practice includes personal injury.

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Failure to Preserve Evidence may increase exposure in workplace injury cases

Upon the occurrence of a workplace injury involving industrial machinery or equipment, it is often the case that an employee will sue the manufacturer of the machine as a companion to his/her Workers’ Compensation petition. At the same time, the employer might seek to effectuate changes in order to make the culpable machine safer for employee operation. However, before any such changes are made, careful consideration must be given to the potential for a claim for “spoliation evidence” against the employer. This can have significant consequences either in connection with pending litigation against an employer or to the extent that it may give rise to an independent cause of action in tort.

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Death benefits applicable to pending cases

In Cruz v. Central Jersey Landscaping, Inc., decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division on May 14, 2007, the majority found that amendments to N.J.S.A. 34:15-13 (which went into law effective January 14, 2004 setting a uniform 70% of the decedent’s wages as the death benefit amount in dependency cases regardless of the number of dependents) applied to pending workers’ compensation cases including claims where the worker’s death was prior to January 14, 2004.

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Covergae Report: insured employers

A recent nationwide poll of 501 businesses with fewer than 100 employees found that six out of ten businesses paid for workers’ compensation coverage. Of those businesses with more than $1M in revenue, that number rose to more than 9 out of 10.

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New case law on Temporary Disability benefits

On March 30, 2007 the Appellate Division decided Ventura v. Reliable Wood Products, A-4554-05T1 (Mar. 30, 2007)(Not Approved for Publication). The cases presented a novel issue: an undocumented worker alleged that his daily weekly wages were $500 per week. The employer alleged that his wage was $6.15 per hour.

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