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Smith v. E.T.L. Enterprises

Decided: January 13, 1978.

BERKELEY R. SMITH, JR., PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
E.T.L. ENTERPRISES, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT



Lynch, Bischoff and Kole. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lynch, P.J.A.D.

Lynch

In this case petitioner appeals from an order of the Division of Workers' Compensation which dismissed his petition on the ground that petitioner was an independent contractor at the time of the accident involved and was not an employee of respondent.

Because of the inadequate findings of fact in the Division we have determined to reverse and remand for specific findings of fact and conclusions.

The totality of findings made by the judge of compensation in dismissing the petition are contained in the following few lines in the transcript:

THE JUDGE: After considering the evidence presented and the testimony of the petitioner, cross-examination by the respondent, the exhibits presented, I find that the petitioner in accordance with the equipment lease or rental equipment lease, R-1 in evidence, that the petitioner was an independent contractor.

Therefore, the respondent is not responsible for the accident in which the petitioner was involved in [ sic ].

Obviously those "findings" are totally inadequate.

At the risk of repetition, yet with the hope of some educational value, we repeat what is required in making findings of fact.

In Application of Howard Savings Institution of Newark , 32 N.J. 29 (1960), the Supreme Court said:

It is axiomatic in this State by this time that an administrative agency acting quasi -judicially must set forth basic findings of fact, supported by the evidence and supporting the ultimate conclusions and final determination, for the salutary purpose of informing the interested parties and any reviewing tribunal of the basis on which the final decision was reached so that it may be readily determined whether the result is sufficiently and soundly grounded or derives from arbitrary, capricious or extra-legal considerations. New Jersey Bell Telephone Co. v. Communications Workers of America , 5 N.J. 354 (1950); cf. Grundlehner v. Dangler , 29 N.J. 256, 271-272 (1959). [at 52]

In Van Realty, Inc. v. Passaic , 117 N.J. Super. 425 (App. Div. 1971), the Appellate Division remanded a tax assessment case, noting that the decision below merely recited the expert testimony presented at the hearing and failed to make any independent findings. The court declared:

The reversals here may serve to alert the Division, and all quasi -judicial and administrative agencies, to their duty to make adequate findings of fact and to express the reasons for their decisions. There is a compelling need for such bodies to understand what constitutes an adequate finding of fact, the practical reasons why they are mandated, the distinctions between ultimate and basic facts, and the necessity that the findings have evidential support. It is equally necessary that such agencies understand why their reasons must be adequately expressed. See particularly, Davis, Administrative Law Treatise (1958), ยง 16.01 et seq. at 435-490, and 2 Cooper, State Administrative Law (1965), at 472-478. For New Jersey guidelines, see In re Erie Railroad System , 19 N.J. 110 (1955); D., ...


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