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Roderick Geraghty v. Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority

May 25, 2011

RODERICK GERAGHTY, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
JERSEY CITY MUNICIPAL UTILITIES AUTHORITY, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Workers' Compensation, Claim Petition Number 2004-14345.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 4, 2011

Before Judges Axelrad and J. N. Harris.

Petitioner-appellant, Roderick Geraghty, appeals from a June 10, 2010 judgment of the Division of Workers' Compensation (the Division), dismissing his claim for benefits. The Judge of Compensation (the JOC) found that Geraghty failed to establish that his medical condition was causally related to his employment. We affirm.

I.

Geraghty, now seventy-two years of age, was employed for approximately six and one-half years as a bucket truck operator by the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority (JCMUA) from December 1995 through August 2002. As a bucket truck operator, Geraghty's principal task was to remove the debris from catch basins from the street level.*fn1 This was accomplished by way of a large steel bucket attached to a cable that would be lowered from the bucket truck, filled with debris, pulled up, and emptied into the truck. The resultant detritus would then be transported to an incinerator, where Geraghty testified he usually spent approximately thirty to forty minutes each day.

Geraghty also occasionally worked with the so-called dragging crew. His work on the dragging crew was similar to operating the bucket truck, except that it involved two machines stationed at two separate manholes.*fn2 Each machine would lower a bucket underground which was then "dragged along the bottom of the sewer" to collect various forms of silt, sewage, or sludge.*fn3

Geraghty estimated that he worked on the dragging crew approximately twenty-five percent of the time.

Geraghty described operating the bucket truck and working on the dragging crew, as "dirty job[s]." Only "[v]ery rarely, very rarely," however, did Geraghty enter an actual catch basin.

Geraghty claimed that he began experiencing difficulty breathing after "a couple of years" with the JCMUA. Specifically, he complained of becoming short of breath when walking or ascending stairs. At the time of trial, he asserted that he could not climb one flight of steps without becoming short of breath. He also reported that he "cough[ed] all day long." Geraghty admitted to smoking cigarettes for five years, but asserted that he quit the habit at age twenty-five, more than four decades earlier.

Prior to working for the JCMUA, Geraghty worked for nine years at H&M Warehouse (H&M), where he operated a forklift. Petitioner described the workplace at H&M as "pretty clean . . . because they had clothes and everything there, so they kept it pretty clean." Prior to H&M, Geraghty worked as a shipping foreman for eleven years at 4M Corp. (4M), a corrugated product company. Geraghty testified that the air quality at 4M was "fairly clean," but got "dusty at times." Prior to 4M, Geraghty worked for eleven years at Owens Illinois (Owens), another corrugated product company, where he operated a forklift. The air quality at Owens was similarly dusty in places, however Geraghty did not recall having difficulty breathing at these prior employments.

Richard Haytas was Geraghty's supervisor at JCMUA. At the time of trial, he had been employed by JCMUA for approximately thirteen years and currently held the position of Assistant Engineer/Infrastructure Maintenance Supervisor. Between 2000 until Geraghty retired, Haytas specifically oversaw Geraghty's field operations.

With regard to Geraghty's daily work conditions, Haytas testified that the collected debris would be wet, so it was less common that particles would become airborne. He also testified that "normal dumping takes about fifteen minutes," however he was not surprised by Geraghty's testimony that he spent anywhere from thirty to forty minutes at the incinerator site, remarking, "[i]t ...


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