New Jersey Court Discusses Intentional Acts and Workers’ Compensation Claims

Under New Jersey law, people injured at work are generally limited to seeking benefits for their harm via workers’ compensation claims. There are some exceptions, however, that allow a party to pursue civil claims as well. For example, an employee may recover compensation from an employer if the employee can show that the harm suffered was caused by an intentional act. If you were hurt while working, you may be able to pursue damages in a civil lawsuit against your employer in addition to recovering workers’ compensation benefits, and you should consult a New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to assess your potential claims.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was injured while working for the defendant when an off-road utility vehicle that he was operating rolled over. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the company that leased the vehicle to the defendant and the company that manufactured the vehicle. The defendant was joined as a third-party defendant by the leasing company, and ultimately the plaintiff sought leave to amend his complaint to assert direct claims against the defendant. The defendant opposed the plaintiff’s request for leave, arguing that the amendment would be futile because the plaintiff’s proposed claims were barred by the exclusivity provision of the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Act (the Act).

The Intentional Wrong Exception to the Exclusivity Provision of the Act

The Act specifically provides that it is the sole remedy for an employee injured in the scope and course of his or her employment. There is an exception under the Act, however, for harm that arises out of an employer’s intentional wrong. The New Jersey courts have explained that to establish an intentional tort claim, an employee must show that the employer knowingly exposed the employee to a significant certainty of injury and that the injury the employee suffered was not a fact of life working in an industrial industry but was clearly beyond anything that the Act was meant to immunize.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to set forth facts indicating that the defendant deliberately intended to injure the plaintiff as required to fall under the exception. The court explained that to meet this prong, a plaintiff must show a virtual certainty that an injury would occur, which requires more than a failure to follow good safety practices or regulations. Instead, in determining whether a plaintiff adequately pled intent to harm, a court will look at whether the allegedly wrongful act was accompanied by affirmative acts that diminish safety devices or a willful refusal to remedy past violations. Here, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant purposefully removed a safety cab net from the vehicle. As such, the court found that the plaintiff adequately pleaded intent and allowed him to amend his complaint.

Confer with a Capable New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney

While most of an injured employee’s claims against an employer are barred by the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act, there are exceptions, and people hurt at work should seek legal counsel regarding their rights. If you sustained an injury while working, the capable New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and aid you in pursuing any compensation you may be able to recover under the law. We can be reached via our form online or by calling us at 800-999-0897 to schedule a conference.

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