New Jersey Workers' Compensation Case Alert

05.16.14

Category: New Jersey

The case of Hernandez v. Port Logistics, A-3558-12T3 (App. Div. 2014), illustrates that the existence of an employee/employer relationship is not encapsulated by written contract. Rather, the employee/employer relationship can arise where the employer exhibits such control over the employee to create “special employee” status, despite any contract language to the contrary.
 
In this case, Mr. Hernandez sustained an eye injury while working at a freight warehouse and distribution center operated by the defendant, Port Logistics. Staff Management Group employed the plaintiff and had a service contract with the defendant. The plaintiff filed a civil suit against Port Logistics and relied upon the service contact, which stated he was an employee of Staff Management Group, to prove he was not an employee of Port Logistics and thereby not limited to the forum of workers compensation. The trial court dismissed the civil complaint as being barred from suit pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-8 and the plaintiff filed an appeal.
 
Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 34:15-8, an employee’s remedy for acts and/or omissions committed by the employer, is limited to the forum of workers compensation, except for intentional wrong doing. 
 
The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant, Port Logistics, as being barred by N.J.S.A. 34:15-8. The court stated the language of the service contract alone does not determine whether the plaintiff was a “special employee” of Port Logistics. Rather, the court stated given that the defendant, Port Logistics, controlled the plaintiff’s work (specific assignments, lunch breaks and overall hours), paid the plaintiff’s wages through the contract it had with Staff Management Group and that it sent the plaintiff home when there was no work, the plaintiff was a special employee of the defendant despite any contract language to the contrary. As a “special employee,” the plaintiff was barred from bringing a civil suit against Port Logistics in accordance with N.J.S.A. 34:15-8. The plaintiff alleged that Port Logistics committed an intentional wrong by not supplying the petitioner goggles, however, the court found this was not an intentional wrong doing such as intentional removal of safety devices or deceiving government inspectors about safety devices. The dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim against Port Logistics was affirmed.
 

For more information please contact Jeffrey Newby at jnewby@wglaw.com or 856.667.5804

 

Media Contacts

Lexi Burchmore
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lburchmore@wglaw.com

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