Case name: MacKenzie v. Macy's Inc., No. A-2264-10T2 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 04/05/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that an engineer's suit was barred because workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for his injuries.
What it means: In New Jersey, an employer's negligence or recklessness will not bring a worker's claim for his injuries outside the exclusive remedy of workers' compensation.
Summary: A roving engineer for a department store was instructed to assist a contractor in the installation and adjustment of HVAC equipment. To perform the adjustment, a ladder was required. The contractor's employee located a ladder, and the engineer's supervisor climbed it first. After, the engineer climbed the ladder and commenced work. The contractor's employee handed him tools by climbing on the back of the ladder. One of the rear legs of the ladder collapsed, and the engineer fell to the ground. He severely injured his shoulder and sustained lacerations on his head.
The next day, the engineer's coworker noticed that the two rear legs of the ladder had been taped, suggesting that a repair had been attempted. The supervisor said he had noticed the tape on the day of the accident but was not concerned about the ladder's safety. The engineer sued the store. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that the suit was barred because workers' compensation held his exclusive remedy.
The court found that the store did not engage in an "intentional wrong," but the conduct constituted negligence or recklessness. No evidence showed that the store regularly supplied its workers with faulty equipment or that the ladder's presence at the work site was more than a fluke. Although there may have been some prior damage to the ladder, the supervisor climbed it without incident, and the engineer had been working on it for some time before the accident.
Also, the court said the contractor's employee and the supervisor were not motivated by an "unwholesome profit motive or a desire to speed the work while sacrificing safety." Although the store may have committed Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations, this did not mean an intentional wrong was committed.
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May 14, 2012
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