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Ziegler v. State

Decided: June 2, 1967.

ROBERT P. ZIEGLER, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY, DIVISION OF STATE POLICE, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT



Gaulkin, Lewis and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gaulkin, S.j.a.d.

Gaulkin

[95 NJSuper Page 274] The facts in this workmen's compensation case are not in dispute. Petitioner Robert P. Ziegler, formerly a New Jersey State trooper, was injured on September 9, 1963, as a result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. He returned to work on June 16, 1964, at which time he performed only light duty -- when

he could perform any work at all. He continued on active service until June 22, 1965, at which time he was retired by the State. From the date of the accident to the date of his retirement, he received full salary. His disability pension, paid since June 22, 1965 consists of two-thirds of his total salary, plus allowances. N.J.S.A. 53:5A-10.

On February 8, 1965 Ziegler filed a petition for workmen's compensation. On June 17, 1965 the State filed an answer to the petition in which it admitted liability and offered to pay compensation for permanent disability on the basis of 85% of total.

The compensation claim came on for hearing on June 16, 1966. The judge of compensation held that:

"* * * in view that the petitioner * * * retired as a result of the disability resulting from this accident, and pursuant to R.S. 34:15-43, he is only entitled to compensation for permanent disability for the period of fifty-three (53) weeks from June 16, 1964 to June 22, 1965, unless after further examination he may be found able to return to active duty * * * at which time payment of compensation for permanent disability shall be resumed."

The County Court agreed that Ziegler was totally disabled, but held that under N.J.S.A. 34:15-43 he was not entitled to the payment of compensation. As to the issue of fees and medical expenses, not herein questioned, the County Court affirmed.

Ziegler appeals from the judgment of the County Court. We affirm. Reinhold v. Town of Irvington, 134 N.J.L. 416 (Sup. Ct. 1946); Flynn v. Union City, 30 N.J. Super. 467 (Cty. Ct. 1954), affirmed 32 N.J. Super. 518 (App. Div. 1954), certification denied 17 N.J. 253 (1955).

In Reinhold petitioner filed a claim for permanent disability compensation following two work-related injuries. After the filing of the petition, Reinhold applied for retirement pension as a result of the disability. The Bureau awarded temporary disability compensation, but the Supreme Court reversed, stating:

"* * * The status of the prosecutor at the time his claim for compensation was dealt with by the Bureau placed him squarely within the provisions of R.S. 34:15-43, N.J.S.A.

It is contended by the prosecutor that his status and his rights are fixed as of the time of the accident, or accidents, and that at the time of the accidents he was not a 'former employee' and therefore not subject to the provision in question. We think this cannot be so because a 'former employee' at the time of the accident would be in no position to claim compensation at all. A compensable injury must be suffered in the 'line of duty' and a former employee would have no duties to perform, being no longer an active employee in the performance of duties. The section clearly contemplates public employees who suffer injuries in the line of duty, accept retirement or pension benefits based upon such injuries, and then may also claim the coverage of the compensation act. The statute appears to have been designed to meet the situation presented in this case, and is a bar to recovery by prosecutor." (134 N.J.L., supra, at pp. 418-419; emphasis added)

In Flynn a city fireman sustained permanent injuries on April 4, 1952 and returned to work during the following September. His petition for compensation was filed in December 1952. In August 1953, prior to the compensation hearing, the petitioner was retired on disability pension on the City's application. Throughout the interval between the injury and the effective pension date petitioner received full pay from the city. N.J.S.A. 34:15-43 had been amended after the Reinhold decision, but the ...


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