gavel (Stock photo)

The Division of Workers’ Compensation has jurisdiction over the case of a New Jersey resident who was hurt on an out-of-state jobsite but was at home when he accepted the offer of employment, an appeals court has ruled.

In a published decision, the Appellate Division reversed a decision by Judge George Pollard of the Paterson Workers’ Compensation Court dismissing a workers’ compensation petition by Keith Williams of Paterson for lack of jurisdiction. Pollard dismissed the case because the Raymours Furniture Co. warehouse where Williams’ injury occurred is in Suffern, New York. But the appeals court said other factors besides the location where the injury happened should be considered when weighing jurisdiction in a workers’ compensation case.

Williams, who worked exclusively in the shipping and receiving department at the Suffern warehouse, tripped over a hand truck and fractured his elbow on the job in 2014.

New York’s Workers’ Compensation Board directed Raymours to provide Williams medical treatment and temporary disability benefits. Later, he filed an application for permanent disability in New Jersey.

The law is well-settled that a pending workers’ compensation proceeding or award in another state does not bar a workers’ compensation proceeding in New Jersey, Judge Allison Accurso wrote. She was joined by Judges Carmen Alvarez and Thomas Manahan.

Raymours raised lack of jurisdiction as a defense, and Williams moved to strike it. The workers’ compensation judge denied the motion in a brief opinion from the bench, finding “[e]verything took place basically in New York except for the residency of Mr. Williams.” Pollard concluded that because the accident took place in New York, where Williams regularly worked, there was “no reason for New Jersey to assert jurisdiction.”

Williams appealed the ruling concluding New Jersey lacked jurisdiction to resolve the claim petition. He argued that his residency and the formation of the contract in New Jersey are sufficient to confer jurisdiction. The appeals court agreed.

“New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Act does not have an extraterritoriality provision.

We, however, break no new ground in acknowledging that ‘any state having a more-than-casual interest in a compensable injury may apply its compensation act to that injury without violating its constitutional duty to give full faith and credit to the compensation statutes of other states also having an interest in the injury,’” Accurso wrote, citing a 1998 Appellate Division case Connolly v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

She cited a treatise, “Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law,” which says the place where the injury occurred, where the contract is formed, and where the employment relationship is carried out can be the basis for jurisdiction. Two other factors—place where the industry is localized and location where the employee lives—can also be considered in such a decision.

Case law in New Jersey has supported assertion of jurisdiction where the injury occurred, where the injured worker and employer formed an employment contract, where the employment is carried out or where the worker is a resident, Accurso said.

New Jersey is the place where the employment contract was created because that was the place where Williams was when he accepted the job by phone, the appeals court said, citing case law holding that a contract is made at the place where the final act necessary for its formation is done.

Fair Lawn attorney Michael Harwin, who represented Williams, said the decision would provide guidance to judges and lawyers about jurisdiction issues in workers’ compensation, noting that few published decisions on that topic are issued by the courts. In addition, the court’s holding that Williams’ work contract was formed at the location where he was when he accepted the job offer by phone will have wide application, Harwin said.

The lawyer for Raymours, Brittany Atkinson of The Chartwell Law Offices in Moorestown, did not return a call about the case.

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