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Court Explains Odd-Lot Doctrine in New Jersey Workers' Compensation Claims


Under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law, an employee that is totally disabled due to a work-related injury is owed greater wage benefits than an employee that is partially disabled. While typically a total disability will arise out of a physical or psychological injury, in some cases, other factors may be considered in determining whether an employee is totally disabled pursuant to New Jersey’s odd-lot doctrine. A New Jersey court recently discussed the odd-lot doctrine in a case in which an employee’s request for a modification was denied. If you suffered a work-related injury and are unable to work due to your injury and other factors, it is advisable to meet with a proficient New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to discuss what benefits you may be able to recover.

Facts Regarding the Employee’s Claim

It is reported that in 2006 the employee injured her back while working for the employer. She subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim, which she settled for fifty-five percent of partial total disability, with a fifteen percent credit to the employer for prior functional loss. After the employee underwent surgery and significant treatment, her claim was reopened, which resulted in a modification of her disability award to seventy-five percent, with a credit to the employer of fifty-five percent for the prior award.

Allegedly, six months later, the employee sought a second modification, arguing that she was totally disabled under the odd-lot doctrine. Specifically, she argued that her limited ability to speak or understand English, her age, and limited job skills combined with her physical injuries rendered her unemployable. Following a hearing during which both parties presented expert testimony, the workers’ compensation judge found in favor of the employer and dismissed the employee’s application for a modification. The employee then appealed.

New Jersey’s Odd-Lot Doctrine

Under New Jersey’s odd-lot doctrine, a finding that an employee has a permanent total disability may be based on factors other than the employee’s medical status. In other words, the odd-lot doctrine imposes responsibility on an employer for an employee who is unemployable on a regular basis in a steady job market not only due to the medical effects of a work-related injury but also due to the employee’s personal limitations.

The odd-lot doctrine is codified in the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law, which provides that factors other than medical impairments may be considered in assessing whether an employee is totally disabled, but only if the medical impairments constitute a minimum of seventy-five percent of the total disability. Thus, in assessing whether an employee is totally disabled under the odd-lot doctrine, a workers’ compensation judge may look at the employee’s background, education, and training. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the employee did not produce sufficient evidence to establish a total disability under the odd-lot doctrine. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Assertive New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney

While a work-related injury is required to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, other factors may be considered in determining the extent of the harm caused by the injury. If you suffered an injury at work, the assertive New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can help you strive for an accurate calculation of benefits based on your injury and any other factor that prevents you from earning an income. You can contact us through our form online or at (934) 200-5372 to set up a meeting.