On appeal from Division of Workmen's Compensation. Determination of facts and judgment.
This is a workmen's compensation appeal. Petitioner was concededly a volunteer fireman of the Avenel Fire Company #1 in the municipality of Woodbridge. On June 10, 1960, while playing softball with the Avenel Fire Company team, he sustained injuries.
The Division of Workmen's Compensation granted an award. The respondent appeals, contending that petitioner does not fall within N.J.S.A. 34:15-43.
The issues involved are (1) whether or not petitioner was injured in line of duty as contemplated by the statute, and (2) is petitioner entitled to compensation on the basis of Complitano v. Steel & Alloy Tank Co. , 63 N.J. Super. 444 (App. Div. 1960), dissenting opinion, at p. 456 adopted by Supreme Court in 34 N.J. 300 (1961).
N.J.S.A. 34:15-43 provides:
"* * * each and every active volunteer fireman doing public fire duty * * * who may be injured in line of duty shall be compensated under and by virtue of the provision of this article and article 2 of this chapter (sections 34:15-7 et seq.). * * *
As used in this section, the terms 'doing public fire duty' and 'who may be injured in line of duty' as applied to active volunteer firemen, * * * shall be deemed to include participation in any authorized public drill, showing, exhibition, or parade of said volunteer firemen * * * either with or without their fire apparatus * * *." (Emphasis added)
The statute has not previously been construed in a factual setting as contained herein. The Legislature apparently intended to broaden coverage so as to include active volunteer firemen who participate "in any authorized public drill, showing, exhibition, or parade of said volunteer firemen,"
so that if injury resulted while engaged in such activity it is deemed "injury in line of duty."
The facts disclose that the Fire Protection League of Woodbridge Township is comprised of the several volunteer fire companies in existence in Woodbridge Township. There is a "Fords Fire Company," "Keasbey Fire Company," "Woodbridge Fire Company," "Avenel Fire Company," and two "Iselin Fire Companies." The Fire Protection League also included the Woodbridge police. An athletic chairman was appointed by the fire companies and he organized the teams and "submitted a contract to the Woodbridge Township Recreation Department" for the Firemen's Protection League. The Recreation Department scheduled the games, and a player was required to belong to the fire department. However, participation in ball playing was not compulsory. Practice games were held from the middle of April until the season started, and uniforms were paid for by each fire company out of its funds. The teams wore baseball uniforms, and the fire company to which petitioner belonged had the legend "Avenel Fire Company" printed across the shirts. In addition, all equipment was financed in the same way. The games between the fire companies were held open to the public and the schedules and results were published in the newspapers. It was stated that the purpose of these games was "for the morale of the men between companies. It helped us in many ways to work as a team. It is the same as if we were going to a fire. We would be working together. You find what a man can do under the circumstances."
Petitioner was injured in a league game between the Avenel Fire Company and the Iselin Fire Company in Kennedy Park, a public park of Woodbridge Township ...