Server's use of tray jacks in dining area doesn't cut off benefits
Dennis v. Trump Marina, No. A-0100-12T3 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 06/04/13, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that a server was entitled to benefits for her injuries.
What it means: In New Jersey, a worker's repeated lifting and carrying of heavy objects can support an award of benefits for a spine injury.
Summary: After 22 years of employment, a banquet server claimed injuries to the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar portions of her spine and residual psychological harm due to occupational exposure from lifting and carrying banquet trays. The server also claimed that she slipped on grease in the kitchen area and fell into a wall, exacerbating her preexisting occupational exposure injuries. The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that the server was entitled to benefits.
Regarding the server's claim of occupational disability, the court found that her repeated lifting and carrying of heavy trays and the associated stress on her spine, eventually "brought about injury to her entire spine and related neurologic and psychiatric conditions." The court rejected the employer's argument that the server's description of her movements did not sufficiently correspond biometrically to the analysis presented by her medical expert. The employer's medical expert agreed that her occupational exposure would have increased the stress on her spine.
The server's claim was also not undermined by the fact that servers used "tray jacks" to rest the trays loaded with food and drink once the servers carried them into the dining area. The court explained that the use of the tray jacks did not eliminate the burdens of repeatedly lifting and carrying the trays back and forth into the kitchen.
The court also found ample proof supporting the server's psychiatric disability claim. The server's psychiatric expert did not ignore her preexisting psychiatric problems and attributed 25 percent of her psychiatric disability to "other matters" than her work-related experiences.
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August 26, 2013
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