In a recent decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision in favor of an employee who suffered injuries on the job. The plaintiff was a mechanic employed by Container Services of New Jersey (CSNJ). He suffered severe injuries when another worker attempted to help him move a piece of equipment. Instead, the worker caused the equipment to crush the plaintiff’s foot, which ultimately required amputation.
Throughout the case, a key question was whether the worker was employed by defendant Marine Transport, Inc. (MT), CSNJ, or both (The same person owned both companies).
Under New Jersey law, a defendant-employer is not liable for a worker’s negligence if it can show that the worker was a “borrowed employee” of a different employer when the accident occurred. In this case, the trial judge treated the issue entirely as a question of law, finding in MT’s favor. The appeals court reversed. MT appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, which solely considered whether the multi-factor test used to determine whether a negligent worker was a “borrowed employee” involved a question of law for the court or a question of fact for the jury.
Ultimately, the court held that the test was properly a fact question for the jury to decide. Generally, the jury addresses questions of fact, and a judge addresses questions of law. When a judge or jury goes beyond these set parameters, they often reach an incorrect or unjust outcome. Here, the court looked at the history of the multi-factor test within New Jersey law and identified several factual questions more appropriate for a jury than a judge. These included issues such as witness credibility and other factual disputes between parties.
Furthermore, the court concluded that New Jersey courts should not determine whether a worker is a “borrowed employee” under the multi-factor test unless the evidence is so one-sided as to justify ruling for one party as a matter of law, not fact. In this case, the court concluded that the evidence was not sufficiently one-sided for a judge to apply the factors in the test. Therefore, the trial court erred in determining that the negligent worker was a “borrowed employee” of the plaintiff’s own employer. As a result, the supreme court affirmed the appeals court’s ruling in favor of the plaintiff.
Have You Been Injured in a New Jersey Workplace Accident?
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries on the job in New Jersey, contact the personal injury attorneys at Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf, P.C. to discuss your legal rights. Sometimes, workers’ compensation does not adequately compensate for your injuries, especially if someone other than your employer was at fault for the accident. Our experienced attorneys will develop a strategy to demonstrate to a jury or judge that an employer should be held liable for your injuries. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team, give us a call at 732-363-0666. We will not charge you any attorneys’ fees unless we can connect you with compensation for what you’ve been through.