Unlike a civil action, Workers' Compensation claims must be filed within the procedural limitations of the NJ 2-year statute of limitations and are not tolled by infancy. Minor children seeking benefits under the dependency provisions of the Act must file a claim timely.
The mother of a surviving 4-year son of an injured worker filed a claim for dependency benefits for the son six-months past the death of the injured worker, the father of the son. On appeal, the mother alleged that the statute of limitation was tolled since the child was an infant.
Infancy does not toll the statute of limitations in a workers' compensation dependency action for a minor child.
“N.J.S.A. 34:15-41 clearly states that claims are barred after two years.
... The Appellate Court has held in numerous cases that tort actions, death actions and workers ' compensation proceedings are sufficiently distinctive in purpose, function and effect to rationally warrant legislative differentiation in the respect of limitation provisions including the incidence of tolling. Had the legislature intended the time limitations be tolled for an infant until he reaches majority, they could insert that provision. I can't, as a [j]udge of [c]ompensation ... do what the legislature has express[ ]ly or inferentially [de]clined to do. I am bound by N.J.S.A. 34:15-41 and N.J.S.A. 34:15-51 . The language in those statutes is unequivocal.
“In rejecting Nacole's argument that LaFage v. Jani, 166 N.J. 412 (2001), mandated a contrary interpretation of the statute, the judge noted:
There was an amendment to [N.J.S.A.] 34:15-51 in May of 2001 after the Lafage decision and there was no change to the two-year requirement .... [I]f the legislature was so inclined after the LaFage decision, they had the opportunity at that time or any time since February of 2001 when LaFage was decided to change our statute, but they have elected not to...
“We reject Nacole's argument and decline the invitation to modify the Legislature's enactment when its meaning is clear.
This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R.1:36-3.
1:36-3. Unpublished Opinions No unpublished opinion shall constitute precedent or be binding upon any court. Except for appellate opinions not approved for publication that have been reported in an authorized administrative law reporter, and except to the extent required by res judicata, collateral estoppel, the single controversy doctrine or any other similar principle of law, no unpublished opinion shall be cited by any court. No unpublished opinion shall be cited to any court by counsel unless the court and all other parties are served with a copy of the opinion and of all contrary unpublished opinions known to counsel.
Note: Adopted July 16, 1981 to be effective September 14, 1981; caption and rule amended July 13, 1994 to be effective September 1, 1994; amended July 12, 2002 to be effective September 3, 2002; amended July 23, 2010 to be effective September 1, 2010.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon L. Gelman is nationally recognized as an author, lecturer and skilled trial attorney in the field of workers' compensation law and occupational/environmental disease litigation. Over a career spanning more than four decades, he has been involved in complex litigation involving thousands of clients challenging the mega-industries of asbestos, tobacco, lead paint and burn pits. He is the author of the 3-volume treatise entitled Workers' Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise of Modern Workers' Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters).
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