Appellate Court’s Scope of Review of the Compensation Court’s Decision | Mesgleski vs. Spes Company
Mesgleski vs. Spes Company February 20, 2016
Submitted by New Jersey Workers Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In this case the Comp judge made finds of fact and determinations of credibility of the doctors who testified as well as the petitioner. This petitioner filed an initial claim in 1992 and then filed a series of statutorily entitled Applications for Modification of the Initial Award. In the most recent Application after a trial the Comp Judge awarded petitioner with a 55% partial total disability award with a credit for the prior 40% award entered in 2000. The judge found that certain of Mesgleski’s claims were not substantiated by the competent medical evidence, while other claims were substantiated. With regard to the unsubstantiated claims, the compensation judge found that:
- Mesgleski was not totally disabled,
- Mesgleski had failed to prove that his bilateral carpal tunnel condition was related to his work accident; and
- Mesgleski had not suffered any psychiatric disability related to his work accident.
With regard to the substantiated claims, the compensation judge found that the only injuries Mesgleski suffered as a result of the 1992 work accident were the injuries to his right and left shoulders. The judge went on to find that those injuries had deteriorated since the award in 2000 and Mesgleski’s disabilities had increased. Thus, the compensation judge set Mesgleski’s permanent partial disability at fifty-five percent of total.
The first issue is the Appellate Court’s scope of review of the Compensation Court’s decision. As stated previously, this court outlined the standard quit clearly:
Our role in reviewing a judge of compensation’s decision is limited to examining:
- a) “whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence
- b) present in the record,
- c) considering the proofs as a whole,
- d) with due regard to the opportunity of the one who heard the witnesses to judge of their credibility.” Lindquist v. City of Jersey City Fire Dep’t, 175 N.J. 244, 262 (2003) (quoting Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589, 599 (1965)).
- e) We give those factual findings “substantial deference.” Bellino v. Verizon Wireless, 435 N.J. Super. 85, 94 (App. Div. 2014) (citing Ramos v. M & F Fashions, Inc., 154 N.J. 583, 594 (1998)).
- f) “We may not substitute our own factfinding for that of the [j]udge of [c]ompensation even if we were inclined to do so.” Ibid. (alterations in original) (quoting Lombardo v. Revlon, Inc., 328 N.J. Super. 484, 488 (App. Div. 2000)).
- g) We will only disturb the judge of compensation’s decision if it is:
1) “manifestly unsupported by
2) or inconsistent with
3) competent relevant and
4) reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice.”
Lindquist, supra, 175 N.J. at 262 (quoting Perez v. Monmouth Cable Vision, 278 N.J. Super. 275, 282 (App. Div. 1994), certif. denied, 140 N.J. 277 (1995)).
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