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Breen Iron Works v. Richardson

Decided: July 20, 1935.

BREEN IRON WORKS, PROSECUTOR,
v.
GRACE RICHARDSON, DEFENDANT



On certiorari to order in a workmen's compensation case.

For the prosecutor, Merritt Lane.

For the defendant, Frank G. Turner.

Before Justices Parker, Case and Bodine.

Parker

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PARKER, J. The writ brings up for review an order dated January 15th, 1935, by Deputy Commissioner Wegner in a workmen's compensation case. All the five reasons filed by prosecutor are directed to the alleged lack of jurisdiction of the deputy commissioner to make the order. That order amounted to a reopening of a case in which the petition had been dismissed, on the ground that the dismissal, in view of the decision of this court in DeRensis v. Federal Leather Co., 113 N.J.L. 235, had been erroneously ordered. In other words, the bureau undertook to reinstate the case for rehearing because of the cited decision.

A short sketch of the history of the litigation is needed for a clear understanding of the controversy now before us.

Petitioner is the widow of Robert Richardson, now deceased, who, on March 9th, 1931, was employed by prosecutor,

Breen Iron Works, and claimed to have sustained on that day an accident entitling him to compensation. He filed a petition May 9th, 1931, which was answered, and on July 7th, the hearing was begun before Deputy Commissioner Stair. Two of Richardson's fellow employes testified to the occurrence and character of the accident. This testimony does not seem to be part of the return to the writ, nor is it mentioned in the stipulation of attorneys, which contains an abstract of Robert Richardson's petition and the answer. However, counsel on both sides refer to it in their briefs, so it may properly be treated as before us in some aspects of the case. The transcript contains no note of any adjournment, and counsel for defendant, Grace Richardson, claims that the trial "was abandoned."

Continuing the chronology of the case: it may be gathered that the parties opened negotiations for a settlement on the theory that liability, though denied, would probably be found, and with a view of agreeing on the quantum of compensation. Medical examinations were made on both sides, settlement was arranged on the basis of seven and one-half per cent. disability and medical and counsel fees; and the parties and counsel came before Deputy Commissioner Corbin on September 30th, 1931, announcing the settlement "to terminate the case as a complete and final close-out, with the understanding that the man cannot come back and reopen the case at any time," and stating the terms. The petitioner was sworn, and testified to his concurrence in the settlement, and said he was satisfied with it, not to be reopened, however his condition might change. A Doctor Trainor was sworn for petitioner, and testified that seven and one-half per cent. was a fair settlement. This closed the evidence, the commissioner said that he "approved the settlement" and signed a somewhat lengthy order for judgment, reciting the facts substantially as above, and expressly reciting the testimony of Richardson and Dr. Trainor, and his own finding thereon that the settlement was a fair one, and to the interests of the parties "as a complete and final disposition of the case for all time." Accordingly, he made order for payments as

stipulated, and in detail. This order is dated ...


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