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Accident Index Bureau Inc. v. Male

Decided: May 5, 1967.

ACCIDENT INDEX BUREAU, INC., AND HILLSIDE METAL PRODUCTS, INC., BOTH CORPORATIONS OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
RAYMOND F. MALE, COMMISSIONER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND INDUSTRY, AND HERBERT KORANSKY, DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION OF WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Goldmann, Kilkenny and Collester. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kilkenny, J.A.D.

Kilkenny

Pursuant to leave granted under R.R. 2:2-3(a), plaintiffs appeal from an interlocutory order of the Law Division denying their application for a preliminary injunction pending final hearing, and dissolving an ex parte temporary restraint theretofore granted.

In their complaint plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment (1) permanently enjoining defendants from enforcing the provisions of chapter 164 of the Laws of 1966; (2) permanently enjoining defendant Herbert Koransky from enforcing his Division Directive No. 14; (3) permanently enjoining defendants from interfering with or hindering plaintiff Accident Index Bureau, Inc. from examining and making copies of records made public by R.S. 34:15-59; (4) adjudging and declaring chapter 164 unconstitutional and void, and (5) adjudging and declaring the directive unconstitutional and void.

At oral argument the parties stipulated that we might make a final disposition of the appeal upon the basis of the record before us, except for a copy of the present advertising brochure now circulated by Accident Index Bureau, Inc. to be furnished to the court, as though the final hearing had been concluded upon the basis of the record as supplemented and the relief sought by plaintiffs had been denied. The brochure has been furnished and the record is agreeably supplemented thereby. Hillside Metal Products, Inc., a customer of the co-plaintiff, has been joined as a party plaintiff, but the issue

really concerns the validity of the statute and directive in their relation to Accident Index Bureau, Inc.

This appeal is a sequel to our decision in Accident Index Bureau, Inc. v. Hughes, 83 N.J. Super. 293 (App. Div. 1964), affirmed 46 N.J. 160 (1965). We there held that an executive order by the Governor under "The Right to Know Law," L. 1963, c. 73, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq., and a regulation based thereon by the Commissioner of Labor and Industry, deeming workmen's compensation records not to be public if the purpose of inspecting or copying them was to provide employers with information concerning prospective employees, were invalid. We concluded that the order and regulation contravened substantive due process. We need not repeat herein all of the reasons which impelled that conclusion or the details of the rationale of the Supreme Court in its affirmance.

Following that litigation and evidently motivated by a statement in the Supreme Court opinion to the effect that "nothing we have said should be thought to question the power of the Legislature to deal with the problem" (46 N.J., at p. 166), there was adopted chapter 164 of the Laws of 1966, which provides:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of the chapter to which this act is a supplement or of any other law, no records maintained by the Division of Workmen's Compensation shall be open to inspection or copying by or on behalf of any person who seeks such inspection or copying for the purpose of selling or furnishing for a consideration to others reports or abstracts of workmen's compensation records or work-injury records pertaining to any individual, except in the case of an investigation by or on behalf of an employer in connection with any pending workmen's compensation case."

Obviously, this new statute is aimed at curbing only the activities of commercial agencies, such as Accident Index Bureau, Inc., engaged in the business of " selling or furnishing for a consideration to others " reports or abstracts of workmen's compensation records. The employers themselves, or their employees, are not barred from inspecting or copying

the workmen's compensation records for any purpose. It is the performance of this inspecting and copying by those who "sell or furnish" the information to others "for a consideration" which alone comes within the statutory bar. By way of exception the ban does not extend to the commercial agencies if the information is gathered in connection with any pending workmen's compensation case.

Directive No. 14, issued by defendant Koransky as Director of the Division of Workmen's Compensation to all ...


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