Appellate Court defers to Judge of Compensation on Issues of Credibility

05.20.19

Category: New Jersey

The matter of Frank Proscia v. Advanced Biotech, Docket No. A-3017-17T2, was the subject of an appeal by the Respondent as the Workers' Compensation Court awarded the Petitioner medical treatment after a full trial on a motion for medical and temporary disability. In this unreported decision, the Appellate Court upheld the lower Court's decision. 

Petitioner alleged an occupational exposure from 2005 to 2012 while working for Respondent at its site in Paterson, NJ.  The Respondent is a chemical company and during the proceedings of the motion, experts for both parties testified that they both reviewed a list of approximately 100 chemicals that Petitioner was allegedly exposed to while working for the Respondent.  Testimony was obtained showing Petitioner worked in and around various areas where known chemicals were being used or stored and was exposed to several chemical spills during his employment.  Petitioner's expert noted that the exposures were a material factor contributing to Petitioner's development of colorectal cancer in 2015.  Per Petitioner's expert, the cancer was at such a stage that Petitioner could not return to work. 

Respondent's expert conceded that some of the chemicals used by the Respondent would be considered carcinogenic but disagreed that the exposure led to the diagnosis of Petitioner's cancer and also noted that Petitioner should be able to return to work. The Workers' Compensation Judge opined that Petitioner's exposure was "something that more probable than not caused him harm and he is entitled to have that harm covered."  The Court ordered temporary disability for the Petitioner and that the Respondent is responsible for treatment going forward.  The Respondent appealed all the issues.

The Appellate Court noted that its' review is limited to whether or not the conclusion "could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence presented in the record."  The court reviewed the statutory standard for occupational claims. The court discussed causation and the tests to be met which in part included "whether it is more probably true than not that the injury would have occurred during the time and place of employment rather than elsewhere." The Court noted Petitioner must prove both medical and legal causation for an award in an occupational exposure claim. The Court found that Petitioner met this burden. With regard to the issue of temporary disability, the Court also noted that sufficient credible evidence was presented for the lower court Judge to reach the conclusion that the claim was compensable, treatment should be provided and Petitioner should be entitled to temporary disability. "The Workers' Compensation Judge was in the best position to evaluate the medical expert's testimony" and gave greater weight to one over the other. 

Comment: As seen again, the Appellate Court will not overturn a Judge's decision if same is based on credible evidence presented in the record. The Judge has full discretion to give whatever weight she or he feels is appropriate with regard to the Petitioner's and expert's testimony. Without gross error, misinterpretation of the evidence or a decision that was based on information not in evidence, the Appellate Court has and continues to routinely uphold the lower Court's decisions. 

For more information, please contact Robert R. Hanneman, at rhanneman@wglaw.com or 856.779.7010.

Media Contacts

Jennifer R. Williams 
215.972.7917
jwilliams@wglaw.com

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