eNotes: Workers’ Compensation – May 2022 – New Jersey
May 25, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
NJ CASE SUMMARY
Lapsley v. Township of Sparta
New Jersey Supreme Court
249 N.J. 427 (2022)
Decided: January 18, 2022
New Jersey Supreme Court extends the exclusive remedy provision in New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act to injuries that occurred in non-designated parking lot finding “premise rule” is meant to be liberally construed.
Petitioner employed as a librarian by the Township of Sparta. The municipal complex in which she worked had three parking lots that were owned by the township and were designated for common use. In February, 2014, Petitioner closed the library early due to a snow storm. Her husband met Petitioner at the library. While Petitioner and her husband were walking to the car, both were struck by a municipal snowplow that was in the process of clearing the parking lot. Petitioner filed both a third party suit and NJ Workers’ Compensation claim. The third party suit was ultimately stayed to allow for a determination of coverage in the Workers’ Compensation matter. The Workers’ Compensation court found that because the township owned and maintained control of the parking lots, the exclusive remedy provision applied. Petitioner appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed, finding that adequate control was not asserted. The Appellate Court cited to the fact that the parking lot was shared with the public, and employees were not instructed to park in the lot. The Township of Sparta appealed, seeking to apply the exclusive remedy provision in the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act.
The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court, finding that while the parking lot was not specifically designated for employee parking, the township exerted control over the parking lot. The control is most compellingly shown by the fact that the township had arranged and provided the snowplowing services that ultimately resulted in the injury.
This case is interesting, because it not only examines the “premise rule” in New Jersey Workers’ Compensation, but it also goes into the interplay between the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusive remedy provision and the heightened level of protection it applies to Employer/Respondents.
Questions about this case can be directed to Caroline Gentilcore, Esquire at (908) 528-2600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.