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Appelate Division Disapproves Dual Capacity Doctrine

By on July 5, 2012 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments

Danielle Fry worked as a cook for Palroll Inc., trading as the Lakeside Tavern in Branchville, N.J.  Palroll operated the tavern and also owned the building in which it was located.  The owners of Palroll were the Rohls.

On April 13, an employee of a bottling company delivered fifteen canisters of soda and one CO2 canister to the tavern.  These canisters were placed in a narrow passage near the tavern’s kitchen.

While these canisters were being delivered, Fry was making pasta salad.  She walked from the stove through the narrow passage to get some pasta.  When she went to return the box of pasta some time later, her right kneecap struck the side of one of the canisters, causing her to fall and suffer injury.

Fry attempted to sue both Palroll and the Rohls, both of whom argued that they were immune from suit because they employed Fry.  The Appellate Division noted, “As an employee of Palroll, Fry’s right to recover from her employer for work-related personal injury would ordinarily be limited to claims brought under the Workers’ Compensation Act,  N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -142.  See N.J.S.A. 34:15-8.”

Fry argued that she should be permitted to sue both Palroll and the Rohls in their capacity as landlords of the tavern. The Court disagreed, “However, as we held in Kaczorowska v. Nat’l Envelope Corp., 342 N.J. Super. 580, 592 (App.Div. 2001) (citations omitted), a ‘dual capacity’ approach is ‘disfavored, if not outright disapproved’ in New Jersey.”

The Court went on to note that the claim plaintiff was advancing did not focus on a structural defect in the building itself owned by Palroll and the Rohls.

“Here, the alleged negligence related to a transient condition in the workplace, rather than a structural or similar problem with the building.  For that reason, we conclude that Fry’s claims against Palroll and the Rohls are barred by the Act.”

This case is important as it underscores that the so-called “dual capacity” doctrine is not favored in New Jersey law.

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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