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Kinley Physical Therapy Services Inc. v. Kramer

Decided: April 2, 1992.

KINLEY PHYSICAL THERAPY SERVICES, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
HYMAN & ADELE KRAMER, DEFENDANTS



Mathias E. Rodriguez, J.s.c.

Rodriguez

MATHIAS E. RODRIGUEZ, J.S.C.

Defendant, Hyman Kramer ("Kramer"), suffered a workrelated injury while working for his employer, Sylvan Piping. Because of this injury, on August 18, 1989, defendant filed workers' compensation claim number 89-038117. At present, that claim is still pending final decision by the Workers' Compensation Court. After filing the claim, Kramer sought medical treatment at the Kinley Comprehensive Center for Acupuncture and Physical Therapy ("Kinley"). These services occurred during September and October of 1989. The record is unclear as to whether Kramer sought this treatment of his own volition or if he was directed to Kinley by CNA Insurance Company ("CNA Insurance"), the employer's workers' compensation carrier.

On July 23, 1991, Kinley filed suit in this court against Kramer for $742.25. This amount represented the services provided to the defendant. Kramer failed to answer the complaint and on September 23, 1991 went into default. The defendant now seeks to vacate default. This Court recognizes the defendant's excusable neglect. His meritorious defense is that this action is a workers' compensation claim and, therefore, this court has no jurisdiction to decide the matter.

In opposition, plaintiff argues that they are not required to bring this action before the Division of Workers' Compensation. In support of this contention, plaintiff cites N.J.S.A. 34:15-8,*fn1

the Election Surrender Statute, which prohibits an employer and employee from pursuing any common-law remedy once the workers' compensation claim has been filed, and limits jurisdiction to the Division of Workers' Compensation. Plaintiff argues that since medical providers are not included in that statute, they are free to seek a common-law remedy against the defendant.

It is true that medical providers are not included in the Election Surrender Statute. However, a detailed review of the Workers' Compensation Act ("Act"), relevant case law, and the policy underlying judicial review of administrative agencies, indicates that the proper forum for this action is the Division of Workers' Compensation.

A. Medical Benefits under the New Jersey Workers' Compensation Act

In reaching its Conclusion, this court takes notice of the purpose and practice of the workers' compensation system.

The underlying goal of the workers' compensation system is to "relieve the injured employee of the burden of paying for his own medical care and to replace his lost wages . . ." 38 N.J.Practice (Gelman, Workers' Compensation) (1988), Section 1 at 1 (Emphasis added).

In relieving the employee's medical burden, the Workers' Compensation Act provides a definite process by which an injured employee may obtain medical treatment. That system is described in N.J.S.A. 34:15-15. Under the statute, the employer is required to provide the worker "such medical, surgical and other treatment, and hospital service as shall be necessary to cure and relieve the worker of ...


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