November 27, 2018
appeal from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce
Development, Division of Workers' Compensation, Claim
Petition Nos. 2014-28615, 2015-120, 2015-123, 2016-31914, and
A. Maggs argued the cause for appellants (Maggs &
McDermott, LLC, attorneys; James A. Maggs, Sandra M. Guage
and Benjamin D. Light, on the briefs).
DeBellis argued the cause for respondent Malouf Chevrolet
Cadillac, Inc. (Ann P. DeBellis, attorney; Ann P. DeBellis
and David P. Kendall, on the brief).
P. Kendall argued the cause for respondent Leone Industries
(Ann P. DeBellis, attorney; Ann P. DeBellis and David P.
Kendall, on the brief).
J. Currenti argued the cause for respondent Cafe Bayou (Law
Offices of William E. Staehle, attorneys; Steven J. Currenti,
on the brief).
Stryker argued the cause for amicus curiae Insurance Council
of New Jersey (Bressler, Amery & Ross, PC, attorneys;
Susan Stryker, of counsel; Susan Stryker and Michael J.
Morris, on the brief).
Stadtmauer argued the cause for amicus curiae RWJ/Barnabas
Health, Hackensack Meridian Health and The Valley Hospital
(Celentano, Stadtmauer Walentowicz, LLP, attorneys; Steven
Stadtmauer, Nancy A. Cifalino and Kristen Ottomanelli, on the
Judges Fisher, Suter and Geiger.
2012, the Legislature amended N.J.S.A. 34:15-15, granting the
Division of Workers' Compensation (the Division)
exclusive jurisdiction over claims brought by medical
providers for payment of services rendered to injured
employees. These appeals, which we now consolidate, question
whether, through its silence, the Legislature intended - via
this 2012 amendment - to apply the two-year statute of
limitations, N.J.S.A. 34:15-51, contained in the Workers'
Compensation Act (the Act),  or whether the Legislature
intended to leave things as they were and continue to apply
the six-year statute of limitations for suits on contracts,
N.J.S.A. 2A.14-1, to such claims. We conclude that subjecting
medical-provider claims to the two-year time-bar would be
like jamming a square peg into a round hole, and that to
reinterpret the two-year time-bar to fit such claims would
require the reshaping of the edges of this square peg
contrary to principles of judicial restraint. So, we reverse
the judgments that dismissed these medical-provider claims.
details of these cases need not clutter this opinion. Each
medical provider filed petitions in the Division for payment
of services rendered to employees of the respondent
employers. And each medical provider filed its claim more
than two years from the date of each employee's accident
but less than six years from the claim's
accrual. In interpreting N.J.S.A. 34:15-15 so as to
require application of the two-year time-bar of N.J.S.A.
34:15-51, the same compensation judge dismissed all these
actions. The medical providers appeal, arguing that the
compensation judge misconstrued the significance of the 2012
the 2012 legislative amendment that generated the question
presented, a medical provider was entitled to file a
collection action for payment of its services in the superior
court and had no obligation to participate in a patient's
pending compensation action. See Univ. of Mass. v.
Christodoulou, 180 N.J. 334, 350-51 (2004). But, as the
Court held in Christodoulou, when an employee
pursues a claim in the Division for compensation benefits, a
medical provider's Superior Court collection action
"must be transferred" to the Division. Id.
at 352. The Court directed such transfers in the future not
for jurisdictional reasons and not because of the then
existing statutory framework but because such transfers
vindicate the goals "of handling claims efficiently and
avoiding duplication of efforts." Ibid. See also
Med. Diagnostic Assocs. v. Hawryluk, 317 N.J.Super. 338,
350 (App. Div. 1998).
apparent intent to more formally herd all medical-provider
claims into the Division,  the Legislature amended N.J.S.A.
34:15-15, declaring that "[e]xclusive jurisdiction for
any disputed medical charge arising from any claim for
compensation for a work-related injury or illness shall be
vested in the [D]ivision." The Legislature said nothing
more, expressing no thought on whether it had also
simultaneously altered the time within which a
medical-provider claim must be commenced. So, whether
N.J.S.A. 34:15-15 implicitly incorporated a legislative
intent to subject medical-provider claims to the statute of