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Tawanna Floyd v. Carol Von Neudeck

June 12, 2012

TAWANNA FLOYD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CAROL VON NEUDECK, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-2486-09.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 4, 2012

Before Judges Sabatino and Fasciale.

In this negligence action, plaintiff Tawanna Floyd appeals from the trial court's grant of summary judgment to defendant Carol Von Neudeck. At the time of the parking lot accident that produced her injuries, plaintiff was a fellow employee of defendant at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital ("Greystone"). The trial court concluded that plaintiff's claim is barred by the exclusive remedy provision, N.J.S.A. 34:15-8, of the Workers' Compensation Act ("the Act"), N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -128. We agree and affirm.

These are the pertinent facts, which we assess in a light most favorable to plaintiff. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 540 (1995).

On the morning of April 20, 2007, plaintiff drove her automobile to work at Greystone. Plaintiff entered the Greystone complex from an entrance off of Old Dover Road, and then she turned on to Mountain Meadow Drive.

Plaintiff parked her vehicle by the curb on Mountain Meadow Drive across from a building known as cottage four. The spot was within a designated parking area, although, according to defendant, it typically was not utilized. Plaintiff shut off the engine of her car and removed her seat belt. Plaintiff then turned on the radio and sipped coffee, remaining in the driver's seat.

After plaintiff parked her car, while she was still in the driver's seat, a Subaru Outback struck plaintiff's car from the rear. The Subaru was driven by defendant. According to plaintiff, immediately after the collision, defendant admitted that she had intended to put her foot on the brake, explaining that she had been talking on her phone and accidentally had stepped on the gas pedal.

Plaintiff claims that as a result of the collision, she suffered injuries to her head, neck, right shoulder, back, knees and toes. Plaintiff briefly lost consciousness after the impact, and she was brought to a hospital where she was treated and released.

Plaintiff sued defendant, her fellow employee, in the Law Division for negligence. During the course of discovery, defense counsel served upon plaintiff a request for admissions concerning the accident. Plaintiff did not respond to that request. Consequently, the items included in that request are deemed admitted by plaintiff and the matters recited within them are "conclusively established" for purposes of this action. R. 4:22-1; R. 4:22-2.

Among other things, plaintiff is deemed under Rule 4:22-1 to have admitted several facts that are critical to the exclusivity analysis under N.J.S.A. 34:15-8. In particular, plaintiff has admitted that she and defendant are co-workers, that both of their vehicles were in "an employer-designated parking area" when the collision occurred, and that the two of them had parked, or were parking, in that area "in order to proceed into work." Plaintiff further admitted that the parking area was "inside the Greystone Psychiatric Hospital complex" and that her employer "controls the area where the accident occurred."

Given these circumstance, the trial court granted summary judgment to defendant because plaintiff's injuries are solely compensable under the Act. In his oral opinion, the motion judge applied prior case law similarly involving auto accidents in employer-owned parking areas. The judge found it particularly significant that, in the present case, Greystone owned the property where the parties had each parked and where the accident took place. Plaintiff then moved for reconsideration, which the motion judge denied.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in confining her to the exclusive remedies of the Act because the accident allegedly did not arise out of, nor occur in the course of, the parties' employment. We reject that contention, and affirm the issuance of summary judgment substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Martin G. Cronin's ...


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