Case name: Dubrel v. Maple Crest Auto Group, No. A-3321-10T3 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 01/30/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished opinion, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division terminated a mechanic's benefits, finding that he purposely and knowingly made false or misleading statements for the purpose of obtaining benefits.
What it means: In New Jersey, surveillance tapes prepared after the start of trial should generally not be considered except when the employer could not have been aware of the circumstances necessitating the surveillance before the start of trial.
An auto mechanic claimed that he slipped on transmission fluid and fell on a concrete floor, injuring his neck and back. He sought medical treatment, including injections, physical therapy, pain medication, and surgery. He said he still experienced pain after surgery and was unable to work. He said he could no longer participate in hobbies, including raising horses for harness racing.
The newly revealed evidence about the mechanic's involvement with horses and harness racing prompted the employer to investigate. A website indicated that the mechanic was the trainer of various race horses and the driver in many competitive races in the years after his injury. Video surveillance taken at the mechanic's home showed a man matching the mechanic's description engaging in harness racing and doing carpentry. The mechanic pointed out that he had a twin brother. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division terminated the mechanic's benefits.
The court found that the mechanic purposely and knowingly made false or misleading statements for the purpose of obtaining benefits. The court explained that the surveillance tape was allowed to be considered as evidence even though it was prepared after the start of trial because the mechanic did not disclose his horse racing activities during his medical evaluations and treatment. It also appeared that he concealed his harness racing from his own attorney.
The person who took the surveillance video admitted that he did not know whether the person he observed was the mechanic or his twin brother. However, the mechanic's credibility was mostly diminished by his claim that he did not participate in harness racing after the accident.
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March 22, 2012
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