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Williams v. Raymours Furniture Co. Inc.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

April 19, 2017

KEITH WILLIAMS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
RAYMOURS FURNITURE CO., INC., Respondent-Respondent.

          Submitted March 15, 2017

         On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Labor, Division of Workers' Compensation, Claim Petition No. 2015-21874.

          Michael S. Harwin, attorney for appellant.

          The Chartwell Law Offices, LLP, attorneys for respondent (Brittany Atkinson, on the brief).

          Before Judges Alvarez, Accurso and Manahan.

          OPINION

          ACCURSO, J.A.D.

         Petitioner Keith Williams appeals from the dismissal of his claim petition by the Division of Workers' Compensation for lack of jurisdiction. Because we conclude the judge of compensation erred in concluding the Division was without jurisdiction to consider Williams' claim, we reverse.

         The essential facts are undisputed. Williams, a New Jersey resident, filed an online application for employment with respondent Raymours Furniture Co., Inc. Respondent called Williams at his home in Paterson to arrange an interview at respondent's facility in Suffern, New York. Following that interview, respondent telephoned Williams at his home to offer him a job as a warehouse worker in its shipping and receiving department in Suffern. Williams answered the phone and accepted the job.

         Williams worked exclusively in respondent's Suffern warehouse. In 2 014, he claimed he tripped over a hand truck in the course of his employment and fractured his elbow. The New York Workers' Compensation Board directed respondent to provide Williams medical treatment and indemnity benefits.

         A little over a year after the accident, Williams filed a claim petition in New Jersey.[1] Respondent answered, leaving petitioner to his proofs as to all aspects of compensability and raised the affirmative defense of lack of jurisdiction. Williams subsequently filed a motion to strike the affirmative defense, which the judge of compensation denied in a brief opinion from the bench dismissing Williams' claim with prejudice. The judge found "[e]verything took place basically in New York except for the residency of Mr. Williams." Because the accident occurred in New York where Williams regularly worked, the judge concluded there was "no reason for New Jersey to assert jurisdiction."

         On appeal, Williams contends the judge erred in concluding New Jersey was without jurisdiction to resolve his claim petition. Among other things, he argues his residency and the formation of the contract in New Jersey are sufficient to confer jurisdiction on the Division. We agree.

         Because the question before us is one of law, our review is de novo. Sentinel Ins. Co. v. Earthworks Landscape Constr., L.L.C., 421 N.J.Super. 480, 485-86 (App. Div. 2011). It is, of course, axiomatic that "the Workers' Compensation Court [now Division] is statutory, with limited jurisdiction." Connolly v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 317 N.J.Super. 315, 318 (App. Div. 1998). Because its jurisdiction is statutory, it "is limited to that granted by the Legislature and therefore 'cannot be inflated by consent, waiver, estoppel or judicial inclination.'" Bey v. Truss Sys., Inc., 360 N.J.Super. 324, 327 (App. Div. 2003) (quoting Riccioni v. American Cyanamid Co., 26 N.J.Super. 1, 5 (App. Div. 1953)).

         New Jersey's Workers' Compensation Act, N.J.S.A. 34:15-1 to -146, does not have an extraterritoriality provision. See Williams v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 175 N.J. 82, 88 (2003). We, however, break no new ground in acknowledging that "[a]ny state having a more-than-casual interest in a compensable injury may apply its compensation act to that injury without violating its constitutional duty to give full faith and credit to the compensation statutes of other states also having an interest in the injury." Connolly, supra, 317 N.J. Super, at 319 (quoting 9 Larson's Workers' Compensation Law § 86:00 at 16-55 (1997)).

         Professor Larson notes six grounds for asserting applicability of a ...


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