The Camden County Bar Association’s Workers’ Compensation Committee presented a seminar on Hot Topics in Workers’ Compensation Law on June 14, 2011. The Honorable Richard E. Hickey III (retired), was one of the presenters, and gave an update on new cases that affect the practice of workers’ compensation law in New Jersey.
One interesting case is the recent case of Stancil v. ACE USA, 418 N.J. Super. 79 (App. Div. 2011). This case addresses a workers’ compensation carrier’s willful refusal to comply with the Order of a Workers’ Compensation Judge. The Appellate Division did not allow damages or allow relief for the pain and suffering this caused, and held that the only venue for the action (or inaction, as the case may be) of a workers’ compensation carrier is in Workers’ Compensation Court. The Court stated that N.J.A.C. 12:235-3.16, and N.J.S.A. 34:15-28.2 contain sufficient penalties to address the refusal to comply with the Order of a Workers’ Compensation Judge by a workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
The above rule and statute basically allow for a 25% penalty on any moneys due if the Judge finds that the payment was unreasonably delayed, and a $5,000 fine for unreasonable delay or continued noncompliance by the carrier. The $5,000 fine is not paid to the employee who is suffering in this process, rather to a state fund, the Second Injury Fund. In addition, the Workers’ Compensation Judge has the right to hold a contempt hearing.
Fortunately the Petitioner’s attorney in the Stancil case appealed the decision of the Appellate Division to the New Jersey Supreme Court. The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to take the case to address the limited issue as follows: Does an employee who suffers a work injury have a common law cause of action for damages against a workers’ compensation carrier for its willful failure to comply with court orders compelling it to provide medical treatment when the delay or denial of treatment causes a worsening of the employee’s medical condition or pain and suffering?
We anxiously await the decision of the Supreme Court in this case. For updates on workers’ compensation law, or issues specific to your case please call one of our workers’ compensation lawyers at (856) 874-4443.