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.
Jeannette v. General Mills Progresso, Docket No. A-5417-15T2, 2018 WL 722478, Decided February 6, 2018.
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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 Unpublished Opinions No unpublished opinion shall constitute precedent or be binding upon any court.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.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters).