• Order for Home Remediation Reversed Due to Lack of Competent Medical Evidence as Required by Squeo.
  • April 24, 2015 | Author: Dario J. Badalamenti
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Roseland Office
  • Loeber v. Fair Lawn Board of Education, Docket No. A-1990-13T1, 2014 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2814 (App. Div., decided December 5, 2014)

    The petitioner, partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, sought additional modification to his home in the form of an interior elevator. The Board denied the application for installation of an elevator as unnecessary. The petitioner offered the testimony of “an expert in home modification for disabled people,” who testified that the petitioner would benefit psychologically from access to his woodworking shop and his child’s room. The respondent’s expert, who was qualified as a licensed occupational therapy assistant, testified that an elevator was unnecessary and that the petitioner’s workshop could be moved to the garage and his child’s bedroom to the home’s main floor. No medical or psychiatric reports or testimony were proffered by either the petitioner or the respondent.

    The Judge of Compensation found the testimony of the petitioner’s expert to be more credible than that of the respondent’s expert and the petitioner entitled to receive the modifications sought. On appeal, the respondent argued that the Judge failed to follow the appropriate procedure in deciding the petitioner’s application by not requiring the submission of one or more medical reports, or medical expert testimony, supporting the relief requested.

    In reversing the Judge’s holding, the Appellate Division relied on Squeo v. Comfort Control Corp., 99 N.J. 588 (1985), in which the court affirmed an order requiring the employer to build a self-contained apartment, to be attached to the petitioner’s parents’ home, for a quadriplegic who had developed severe depression and had become suicidal after several years in a nursing home. The Squeo court acknowledged that N.J.S.A. 34:15-15 does not specifically mention home remediation as an available remedy but, rather, speaks in terms of payment or reimbursement for “medical, surgical and other treatment.” That notwithstanding, the Squeo court interpreted that language as permitting a Judge to order home modification, but only in limited circumstances.