On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division.
For reversal -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Wachenfeld, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For affirmance -- Justice Oliphant. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wachenfeld, J.
This is the fourth tribunal to consider whether or not the petitioning employee is entitled to compensation for an injury suffered while she was performing her usual duties at her customary place of work.
The inquiry is whether or not the petitioner established by the preponderance of probabilities that she suffered injury by reason of an accident arising out of and in the course of her employment, and the point at issue is primarily factual.
The petitioner was 75 years old at the time of the injury and had been an employee of the respondent for approximately 20 years. She operated a wire spooling machine. On the day in question, soon after commencing her work, she adjusted her machine and turned to replace a wrench on the tool shelf behind her. In so doing, she slipped and fell on the concrete floor, severely injuring her hip.
She filed a claim under the Workmen's Compensation Act and the Bureau awarded her 41 weeks' temporary disability and 60% of total permanent disability, totalling $7,518.17, plus $1,872.50 for hospital and medical costs.
The employer appealed to the Essex County Court, where, after an independent review of the evidence, the award was affirmed.
A further appeal was taken to the Appellate Division, which, in a per curiam opinion, reversed the County Court and set aside the award made by the Bureau, adopting the respondent's view that the conclusion of the County Court "was palpably erroneous and likely the product of the influences of sympathy." The matter comes before us on the granting of the employee's petition for certification.
Rule 1:2-20(a), as amended June 7, 1951, provides:
"On a review of any cause involving issues of fact not determined by the verdict of a jury, new or amended findings of fact may be made, but due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge of the credibility of the witnesses. * * *"
This clause insures an open door through which we can at all times and under all circumstances determine whether the judgment below was equitable and just and in accord with the record.
Employing its provisions, by full investigation and analysis of all the evidence, we are called upon to decide which of the two conclusions is consistent with the record, keeping in mind that the Appellate Division, as we, had no opportunity to observe or personally appraise ...