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Fenton v. Margate Bridge Co.

Decided: February 2, 1953.

EZRA A. FENTON, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
MARGATE BRIDGE COMPANY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Eastwood, Bigelow and Jayne. The opinion of the court was delivered by Eastwood, S.j.a.d.

Eastwood

In this workmen's compensation case the dispositive question is whether the employee's injuries were caused by an accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment. On May 11, 1951, at about three minutes before 4:00 P.M., the petitioner-respondent Ezra A. Fenton, employed by the respondent-appellant Margate Bridge Company as a bridge tender and toll collector, suffered injuries when, at or near the bridge entrance on Jerome Avenue, in an attempt to negotiate his automobile around a sharp turn in the highway, he discovered the brakes were ineffective. In an endeavor to bring his car under control, the overhang of his shoe pressed down on the accelerator, causing the automobile to gain increased momentum, whereupon he lost control of the car. It crashed through a guard rail at a point about three feet on the Margate bridge, and struck a pole on the boundary line of the bridge company's property and that of an unestablished owner. At the time Fenton was operating his privately owned automobile on his way to his place of employment, at which he was due at 4 o'clock.

The employer was the owner of the toll bridge and had constructed a garage for the convenience of its employees for the parking of their automobiles, wherein the petitioner

had customarily parked his car for some time prior to the accident.

The Compensation Bureau dismissed the petition on the ground that the accident did not arise out of and in the course of the employment. On appeal the County Court reversed, from which judgment the employer appeals.

The employer contends that the petitioner's injuries did not result from an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment and that the County Court erred in determining that the accident in question occurred on the bridge property of the respondent. The petitioner asserts that the employer did not, either in the proceedings before the Bureau or the County Court, raise any question as to where and when the injuries were sustained; that the only question the employer raised in the County Court was whether or not the injuries were compensable.

R.S. 34:15-7 provides "compensation for personal injuries to, or for the death of, such employee by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment * * * without regard to the negligence of the employer, * * *." In Bryant, Adm'x, v. Fissell , 84 N.J.L. 72 (Sup. Ct. 1913), we find this definition of "an accident" at pp. 75-76:

"* * * (a) an accident, (b) arising out of, and (c) in the course of, his employment. Even though the injury arose out of and in the course of the employment, if it be not an 'accident,' within the purview of the act, there can be no recovery. * * * an 'accident' is an unlooked for mishap or untoward event which is not expected or designed. * * *"

To establish a compensable injury by accident it must be proved that it not only arose out of the employment, but also in the course of the employment. "The fact that injury was suffered during the course of work does not per se entitle one to the benefits of that act. It must also appear that it arose out of the employment." Seiken v. Todd Dry Dock, Inc. , 2 N.J. 469, 474 (1949). The compensation statute is a remedial law of prime import and should be liberally construed. Fisher v. Tidewater Building Co. , 96 N.J.L. 103, 105

(Sup. Ct. 1921), affirmed 97 N.J.L. 324 (E. & A. 1922); Sanders v. Jarka Corp. , 1 N.J. 36 (1948). An accident arises out of the employment if in some manner it is reasonably incident to the employment. The injuries need not have been foreseen. It is sufficient if they flowed as a rational consequence from a risk connected with the employment. Sanders v. Jarka Corp., supra. If the employment is a contributing cause to the accident the statutory requirement is met. Newcomb v. Albertson , 85 N.J.L. 435 (Sup. Ct. 1914). The employment need not be the sole or proximate cause of the injury; it is sufficient if it is a necessary factor leading to the accident. Terlecki v. Strauss , 85 N.J.L. 454 (Sup. Ct. 1914), affirmed 86 N.J.L. 708 (E. & A. 1914).

"The hazards encountered by employees while going to or returning from their regular place of work, before reaching or after leaving the employer's premises, are not ordinarily incident to the employment, and for this reason injuries resulting from such hazards are in most instances held not to be compensable as arising out of and in the course of the employment. This general rule is subject, however, in most jurisdictions, to certain well-recognized exceptions which depend upon the nature, circumstances, and ...


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