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De Asio v. City of Bayonne

Decided: June 27, 1960.

NICHOLAS DE ASIO, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF BAYONNE, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Freund and Haneman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.

Freund

The only question presented is whether the petition for compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act was filed within the time prescribed by law. The Deputy Director found that it was not and dismissed the claim petition. The Hudson County Court found that it was and reversed. 58 N.J. Super. 418 (1959). This is an appeal by the respondent from the judgment entered in that court.

Insofar as it is here pertinent, R.S. 34:15-51 provides:

"Every claimant for compensation * * * shall * * * file a petition in duplicate with the secretary of the bureau * * * within two years after the date on which the accident occurred, or in case an agreement for compensation has been made between the employer and the claimant, then within two years after the failure of the employer to make payment pursuant to the terms of such agreement; or in case a part of the compensation has been paid by the employer, then within two years after the last payment of compensation." (Emphasis added.)

It is firmly established that the Division of Workmen's Compensation has no jurisdiction to entertain a claim petition filed after the expiration of the time designated in

the statute. Valentine v. Walter Kidde & Co. , 136 N.J.L. 292 (Sup. Ct. 1947); Bocchino v. Best Foods, Inc. , 16 N.J. Super. 154, 157 (Cty. Ct. 1951). The Compensation Bureau is a creature of statute, and its special and limited jurisdiction cannot be inflated by consent, waiver, estoppel, or judicial inclination. Riccioni v. American Cyanamid Co. , 26 N.J. Super. 1, 5 (App. Div.), certification denied 13 N.J. 289 (1953).

It is also undoubted that the actual furnishing of medical treatment by the employer is a part payment of "compensation" within the meaning of R.S. 34:15-51, and a claim petition filed within two years of such "payment" is within time. Sampson v. Thornton , 8 N.J. 415, 419 (1952); Schwarz v. Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. , 16 N.J. 243, 248 (1954). There is a distinction between the furnishing of medical treatment by the employer and the payment by the employer for medical treatment already furnished; it is the date of the last treatment, and not of the employer's payment therefor, that incepts the running of the two-year period. Oldfield v. New Jersey Realty Co. , 1 N.J. 63, 65-66 (1948).

The jurisdictional terms of the statute must be given a construction that will comport with the policy prompting its enactment. As stated in Riccioni v. American Cyanamid Co., supra , 26 N.J. Super. , at page 6:

"It is manifest that a cogent object of the provision is to prevent employers and their insurers from lulling the injured employee into a false assumption of security and consequential inaction and tardiness by means of voluntary assistance."

The furnishing of medical benefits is held to extend the claim period on the theory that the furnishing of any kind of benefit required by compensation law indicates to the employee an acceptance by the employer of liability for the injury. The objective of the statute is "to protect the claimant who reasonably refrains from making claim because of the receipt of benefits voluntarily supplied." 2

Larson, Workmen's Compensation Law, p. 271, ยง 78.43(b). On this ground it is held that a mere medical examination to determine causal relation, conducted for the employer's purposes and not to benefit the employee, is not such conduct on the employer's part as to justify the employee's inaction and delay in filing the petition. Schwarz v. Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., supra , 16 N.J. , at page 250; Pfahler v. Eclipse Pioneer Div. of Bendix Aviation Corp. , 21 N.J. 486, 489 (1956). In circumstances where the employee has been misled, the employer may be estopped from ...


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