In Order for A Claim to Be Compensable, It Must Arise Out of The Scope of Employment

Pilone v. County of Middlesex

Docket No. A-1676-19

Decided March 15, 2021

Submitted by New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished decision, the New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed whether an injury that occurred while a prosecutor was traveling a frequently traveled path for work to discuss a case at the donut shop was compensable.

In Pilone, petitioner, an assistant prosecutor at the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office in New Brunswick, fell and suffered an injury as she was walking to a donut shop with a co-worker to discuss an interview she was preparing to have with a victim-witness. The Prosecutor’s main office is located at 25 Kirkpatrick Street (Kirkpatrick), and petitioner’s office was located about one block away at 100 Bayard Street (Bayard). As part of her job, petitioner often walked between Kirkpatrick, Bayard, and the Middlesex County Superior Court, on Paterson and New Streets. Petitioner would leave Bayard several times a day to walk to the main office or to the court.

On March 21, 2017, petitioner arrived at her Bayard office between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. She was planning to meet with a victim-witness later that day but wanted to discuss the case with a colleague, Helen Zanatakos, because of Zanatakos’s experience as a fellow assistant prosecutor. Petitioner and Zanatakos decided to meet at 11:00 a.m. Petitioner met Zanatakos in front of Kirkpatrick and the two started walking to the donut shop, one block away. Petitioner fell on the sidewalk in front of a parking lot near Kirkpatrick. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

On May 15, 2017, petitioner filed an employee claim petition for workers’ compensation benefits under N.J.S.A. 34:15-7 due to the March 21, 2017, slip and fall that caused injuries. In June 2017, Middlesex County responded, confirming petitioner was its employee, but denied petitioner suffered a compensable injury that arose out of and in the course of her employment.

Petitioner testified she was not taking a break for lunch when she fell, but was attempting to discuss a case with Zanatakos face-to-face and it was her common practice to meet her colleagues outside of the office to discuss cases, as Bayard and Kirkpatrick could be too busy. She intended to purchase a coffee at the shop and discuss the case inside, and “probably” brought the file with her to this public place because taking it with her would not have been prohibited.

Zanatakos testified petitioner had a bag with her, which may or may not have contained the victim-witness’s file, and they were meeting to discuss how to approach this particular victim-witness. Zanatakos was under the impression the victim-witness was dissatisfied with how her case had proceeded, and Zanatakos was asked to provide guidance on how to speak with the victim/witness. Zanatakos acknowledged she and petitioner sometimes met for coffee to discuss personal matters and work would come up, but this meeting had a specific purpose to address petitioner’s upcoming meeting.

The Judge of Workers’ Compensation Court dismissed petitioner’s claim, ruling the injury did not arise out of and in the court of her employment.  Petitioner appealed.  The Appellate Division agreed that although petitioner may have been on her way to discuss work and had traveled the path to Court many times, the trip to the donut shop was voluntary, outside the course of employment, and not compensable.  The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal.

In order for a claim to be compensable, it must arise out of the scope of employment. If there is an issue as to the premises, an employee must be there as demanded by the job.  For instance, an outside sales representative injured while outside of the physical location of his or her employer may have a compensable injury if there are out on a sales call because that is required for work, even though they are off site. However, a trip to lunch during work would not be covered if it was not on the employer’s property.

If you or someone you know has been injured on the job, you need to make sure you contact a workers’ compensation attorney with experience today.  These attorneys can answer all of your questions regarding temporary benefits, medical bill payments, permanent injury, and the nuances of workers’ compensation law.  Do not hesitate to contact Hark & Hark today to discuss your personal injury.

For workers’ compensation and personal injury matters, you pay nothing upfront, and our fee is paid as a percentage of your recovery. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.


Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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