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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Equitable Relief Permits Reinstatement of Dismissed Workers’ Compensation Case

The principles of equitable relief were invoked by a NJ Appellate Court to restore a dismissed workers’ compensation case to the active calendar. 

The Appellate Court, reviewing the facts, considered that the original dismissal, was based on “omissions and misrepresentations” of his prior attorney and the "Petitioner's dilemma was not caused by his own dereliction or ambivalence."

The Appellate Court stated:

Although N.J.S.A. 34:15–54  does not expressly create an exception to the oneyear
requirement for filing a motion for reinstatement, our courts have recognized
that compensation judges possess the inherent power to excuse the one-year time
bar upon the grounds set forth in Rule  4:50–1. Beese v. First Nat'l Stores, 52
N.J. 196, 200 (1968) ; see also Estelle v. Bd. of Educ. of Red Bank,  14 N.J.  156,
261 (1954); Stone v. Dugan Bros. of N.J., 1 N.J.Super. 13, 16–17 (App.Div.1948) .
Relevant here is consideration of Rule  4:50–1(f), which provides that a court may
vacate a judgment for “any other reason justifying relief from the operation of
the judgment or order.”

When considering relief under that basis, “[n]o categorization can be made of
the situations which would warrant redress under subsection  (f) .... the very essence
of (f) is its capacity for relief in exceptional situations. And in such
exceptional cases its boundaries are as expansive as the need to achieve equity
and justice.” Court Inv. Co. v. Perillo, 48 N.J. 334, 341 (1966)  (citation omitted).