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New Jersey Court Discusses Reimbursement of Workers' Compensation Benefits


While the work-related nature of some harm is clear, in other instances, an employer may deny that an employee suffered an illness or injury due to work conditions. Thus, the matter of whether an employer owes an employee workers’ compensation benefits will have to be decided in court. Recently, a New Jersey court addressed an issue where an appellate court overturns an initial ruling that an employee suffered work-related harm, if the employee may be compelled to repay any benefits he or she received. If you suffered an illness or injury due to conditions you encountered at work, it is advisable to confer with a dedicated New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to assess your rights.

Facts and Procedural History

It is reported that the employee requested workers’ compensation benefits, alleging that he suffered harm due to exposure to toxic substances in the workplace. The employer denied that the employee suffered a work-related injury, and therefore the employee filed a claim against the employer. A trial was held, after which a judge of compensation awarded the employee temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, and costs. The employee appealed and filed a motion to stay the case pending resolution of the appeal.

Allegedly, the judge of compensation denied the stay, but orally proscribed that if the decision was overturned, the employee might be required to repay the employer any benefits paid during the pendency of the appeal. While the parties were waiting for a ruling on the appeal, the employer paid the employee almost $117,000 in benefits. The appeal was subsequently granted, after which the employer filed a motion seeking reimbursement of the benefits paid. The judge of compensation denied the employer’s motion, stating that jurisdiction remained with the appellate court, after which the employer appealed.

Reimbursement of Paid Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Generally, under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation law, once an appeal is granted, the trial court no longer has jurisdiction to act, except for in limited circumstances. Additionally, an appellate court has the authority to remand an appeal to the trial court, with or without retaining jurisdiction, to allow the trial court to take appropriate action. In the subject case, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling but did not address the issue of whether the employer was entitled to reimbursement of benefits paid.

The appellate court noted that a judge of compensation has the authority to modify any award of benefits, judgment, or determination it issues. In other words, a judge has discretionary power over its own rulings. Thus, the court found that the judge of compensation retained jurisdiction and reversed the judge’s ruling and remanded for further proceedings.

Meet with an Experienced New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney

It is not uncommon for an employer to argue that an employee’s harm is not work-related, and anyone who suffers a workplace injury should meet with an attorney to discuss their rights. If you were exposed to toxic substances at work and suffered an illness as a result, the experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you of what measures you can take to protect your interests and assist you in pursuing just results. You can reach us through our form online or at (934) 200-5372 to schedule a conference.