New Jersey Court Discusses Elements of a Third-Party Claim for Work Related Injuries

Typically, when an employee in New Jersey suffers an injury in the workplace, New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law provides the exclusive remedy for the employee to pursue compensation from the employer. In many instances, however, an injured employee may be able to pursue claims against other people or entities that caused the employee’s injuries. The elements of a third-party application for a work-related injury were discussed in a recent New Jersey case in which an employee suffered injuries while employed as a harbor worker. If you sustained an injury at work, it is advisable to contact a seasoned New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue.

Factual Background

It is reported that the plaintiff worked as a harbor worker for a company that conducted terminal operations on a boat that was owned by the defendant. The defendant’s practice was to tie down vehicles that were being transported and to remove the ties and store them before stevedores boarded the boat to remove the vehicles. However, on one occasion, the defendant failed to stow the ties, and the plaintiff tripped over the ties and suffered injuries. The plaintiff brought an action against the defendant pursuant to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), alleging negligence. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which the plaintiff opposed.

Third-Party Claims for Work-Related Injuries

Upon review, the court noted that the Act provided that when an employee covered under the Act suffers an injury due to the negligence of the vessel, the employee may pursue claims against the vessel as a third party. The Act did not set forth an explanation as to the acts or omissions that would qualify as negligence. The court explained, however, that owners of ships have a duty to exercise reasonable care in turning the ships over to stevedoring contractors, which includes the duty to warn of latent defects that the stevedore would not anticipate and are not obvious. (more…)