• Motion for Medical And Temporary Benefits Granted As Disability Resulted From Occupational Stresses of Later Employment, Not Simply A Worsening of A Prior Work Injury
  • October 6, 2017
  • The petitioner filed an occupational claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation alleging exposure to extreme occupational stress for the period from 2006 through 2014, resulting in injury to his low back. He filed a simultaneous Motion for Medical and Temporary Benefits, seeking authorization for surgery. The respondent denied the claim, arguing the petitioner’s injuries were the natural progression of work-related trauma he sustained in 2002. The respondent asserted the claim was barred by Peterson v. Herman Forwarding Co., 267 N.J. Super. 493 (App. Div. 1993), in which the petitioner suffered a work-related injury and then claimed occupational exposure against a later employer, alleging that the subsequent employment aggravated the original injury and caused increased disability. The Peterson court held that the later employment did not legally and materially contribute to his disabilities and, therefore, the ensuing employer could not be held liable.

    In granting the petitioner’s motion, the Judge of Compensation rejected the respondent’s argument that the petitioner’s claim was barred by Peterson. Rather, the judge likened this claim to Singletary v. Wawa, 406 N.J. Super. 558 (App. Div. 2009), where the Appellate Division held that the determinative issue in finding an employer liable is whether the employment materially contributed to the petitioner’s disability. The judge concluded that here, as in Singletary, the petitioner’s continued employment with the respondent resulted in additional “physical insult” to his low back that was “materially attributable to [his] job duties.” As such, the judge granted the petitioner’s motion. This appeal ensued.

    The Appellate Division affirmed the judge’s ruling. It found that, based on the petitioner’s detailed testimony about the different stresses to his back from the different jobs he held with the respondent, the judge correctly concluded, “[T]he overwhelming cause of Hendrickson’s current medical condition was his work at UPS from 2006 to 2013, making this case consistent with Singletary and unlike Peterson.”