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Gersh v. Richard Gersh & Associates, Inc.

A-4459-06T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

WORKERS COMPENSATION — Not every lunch meeting between a business owner and his or her employee-spouse is a social lunch, and if the employee-spouse is injured while traveling to or from a business lunch, even if only with the business owner-spouse, that spouse’s injuries are compensable under the workers compensation law.

A business owner and his wife left the worksite for a business lunch at which they were to discuss the details of a meeting the business owner attended. The wife worked for the business. Such lunch meetings were common and were regularly billed to clients. While crossing the street, the business owner’s wife was struck by a car. She died after several months of hospitalization. Prior to her death, she filed a worker’s compensation claim, claiming that she was injured in the course of her employment. The company’s worker compensation carrier sought reimbursement from the business owner’s wife for benefits paid to her as a result of the accident. After his wife’s passing, the business owner filed a dependency claim petition. At an administrative hearing, the business owner’s dependency claims were found to have been compensable.

On appeal, the Appellate Division noted that whether an accident is compensable in the course of employment depends on whether the accident would have more likely to have occurred during the time and place of employment than otherwise. The Court also noted that accidents occurring away from the place of employment are not usually compensable unless the injured party was carrying out such off-premises activities at the direction of his or her employer. It also noted that injuries that are directly associated with course of employment, such as those resulting from malfunctions, and injuries that were neutral but occur during the course of employment, are compensable whereas risks such as medical conditions exclusive to an employee are not compensable. Here, the Court found the business owner’s testimony credible that the accident did not occur during a social lunch. It accepted the testimony that the accident occurred during travel to a business-related meeting and concluded that the wife injuries happened during the course of her employment. Consequently, it affirmed the lower court’s finding that her injuries were compensable.

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