A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Supreme Court Finds County Employee’s Injury Not Compensable

By on April 8, 2014 in Compensability with 0 Comments

In a surprising decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court, an award to Cheryl Hersh, an employee of Morris County, was reversed on April 1, 2014.

Ms. Hersh was employed by the County since September 2002 as a Senior Clerk in the Board of Elections.  In 2004 the County assigned her free parking at a private garage on Cattano Avenue located about two blocks from the Administration Building where she worked.  The garage contained several hundred parking spaces of which the County rented about 65 for its employees.  Hersh was unable to park next to the county building in the county parking lot because she lacked sufficient seniority.  Instead, she was permitted to park at the Cattano Garage but she was not given an assigned space.

On January 29, 2010, Hersh parked her car in the Cattano Garage, exited on Cattano Avenue, and began walking one-half block to Washington Street.  As she crossed Washington Street, she was struck by a motor vehicle that ran a red light. Hersh brought a workers’ compensation claim and prevailed in the Division of Workers’ Compensation.  The Appellate Division affirmed her award.  The County appealed.

The County argued that this case was different from the decision in Livingstone v. Abraham & Strauss, Inc., 111 N.J. 89 (1989).  In that case, the employer required its employees to park in a distant location of a mall parking lot so that the customers of the store would have access to the lot closest to the store. The petitioner was injured when she was struck by a vehicle walking to the store, and the Supreme Court found that injury compensable.   Here the County argued that there was no real benefit to the employer in having employees park in the Cattano Garage.

The Supreme Court agreed with the County in finding that two factors distinguished the Livingstone case that were missing from Ms. Hersh’s case:

Of chief concern in Livingstone, supra, was the employer-derived benefit that was created by dictating that employees park at the far end of the lot.  Ibid.  The employer’s business benefit, along with the added hazard employees were forced to endure by the employer while they walked through the parking lot, made the injury compensable. Ibid.

The Court found that the Cattano Garage was not part of the premises of the County, and significantly, the County did not control the garage.  It was neither owned nor maintained by the County.  “The County derived no direct business interest from paying for employees to park in the Cattano Garage.  Most importantly, the accident occurred on a public street not under the control of the County.  In walking a few blocks from the Cattano Garage to her workplace, Hersh did not assume any special or additional hazard.”

The case is significant because on the surface, the facts appeared to be on all fours with Livingstone as noted by the Judge of Compensation and the Appellate Division.  The Supreme Court seemed to suggest that there must be a special benefit to the employer or additional hazard for an accident of this nature to be found compensable.  The tenor of the case is that parking privileges were a perquisite, much like having a company-paid car, but these facts do not make the injury compensable.

This case can be found at Hersh v. County of Morris, A-59-12, (April 1, 2014).

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John H. Geaney

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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