July 15, 2008
ROGER DAVIS, JR., PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
ADESSA AUTO AUCTION, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Labor, Division of Workers' Compensation, 2006-20884.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 15, 2008
Before Judges Fuentes and Chambers.
Petitioner Roger Davis, Jr., appeals from the order of the workers' compensation court dismissing with prejudice his claim for benefits. Specifically, the judge of compensation found that petitioner filed his claim petition against Express Personnel Services, Inc. outside the two-year limitation period established by N.J.S.A. 34:15-51.
Petitioner now argues that the court of compensation committed reversible error when it denied his motion to amend his petition to name Express Personnel Services. We reject this argument and affirm. We summarize the following facts from the record developed before the court of compensation. On August 3, 2006, petitioner, through privately retained counsel, filed a workers' compensation claim petition naming Adessa Auto Auction as his employer. In his petition, petitioner indicated that on August 4, 2004, he injured his left leg in a work-related accident. By motion dated September 13, 2006, Adessa Auto Auction moved before the court of compensation to dismiss the petition, alleging that: (1) the actual date of the accident was July 16, 2004; and (2) at the time of the accident, petitioner was employed by Express Personnel Services, not by Adessa Auto Auction.
Petitioner then filed a claim petition, dated September 26, 2006, against Express Personnel Service. That petition indicated that the date of the injury was July 16, 2004. Express Personnel Service moved to dismiss the petition for failure to satisfy the statute of limitations. While that motion was pending, petitioner filed a motion to amend his earlier petition against Adessa Auto Auction in order to name Express Personnel Service as the correct employer in that petition.
Against these facts, the judge of compensation denied petitioner's belated attempt to amend his initial claim petition, and dismissed both petitions, setting forth the following reasons in support of his ruling.
All right. The concept of a statute of limitations is just as its name implies, designed to limit litigation so that claims are filed timely, and the parties have an opportunity to Respond timely, and it is procedural and definitive as far as I can tell. Now, it appears that what we have is the following. We have a date of accident July 16th, 2004 which all the parties agree is the date of accident. The fact that the Petitioner was not sure of the date of accident cannot inure to the detriment of the Respondent. Petitioners have an obligation to be factual in their representations to counsel and be timely as regards the filing of their claim.
Dealing with the claim against Express, the accident occurred July 16, 2004. The Claim Petition was not filed until September 6, 2000 - till September 2006, well beyond two years after the accident and well beyond August 4, 2004, the date that Express provided a medical treatment in the form of a final visit to the doctor who determined at that time that Petitioner had reached maximum medical improvement.
The Claim against [Adessa] was filed on August 3, 2006, well more than two years after the date of accident of July 16, 2004[.] Petitioner asserts that since Express provided medical care on August 4, 2004, it should inure to the benefit of or should be attributable to or imputable to [Adessa] so that petitioner's claim against [Adessa] filed on August 3, 2006 would be timely. I reject that claim.
These are two separate entitles, each of whom had obligations to the Petitioner, to their employee, one of which did provide medical care and the other did not. Failure to provide the medical care does - cannot add additional rights to the injured worker whose claim was not filed against the employer [Adessa] until more than two years after the date of the accident, albeit within one day, so to speak, of the time the statute would have run had treatment been afforded by [Adessa]. I do not believe the treatment provided by Express can be imputed to [Adessa], and I, therefore, find that both claims are dismissed on the grounds that they are barred by the Statute of Limitations.
We affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the judge of compensation. We emphasize that petitioner's initial misidentification of his employer was not the factor driving our analysis. Even if Express Personnel Services had been properly named, the petition was filed beyond the two-year limitation period which began to run on July 16, 2004, the date of the accident.
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