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Jacome v. Grinnell, Inc.

A-6060-02T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

WORKERS COMPENSATION—In order to lose its protection under the workers compensation bar, an employer’s intentional conduct must be directed at the injuries underlying the lawsuit, not later investigative events.

An employee was injured when he was struck by a forklift operated in reverse by a co-worker. The employee claimed that this was the result of intentional conduct by his co-worker. In addition, the employee alleged that when his attorney went to the employer’s facility during pretrial investigation, the employer did not show the attorney the forklift involved in the accident, but showed a different one with a backup alarm. As a result, the employee claimed that this was intentional and deceitful. The employee contended that as a direct and proximate result of this conduct, the employer waived its right to invoke the bar to legal recovery under the Workers Compensation Act. Accordingly, the employee demanded judgment for compensatory damages and punitive damages.

The lower court held that the Act barred the employee’s claim. It concluded that the alleged “switching of the forklifts” could not be deemed to be related to actions which served as a basis for causing the bodily injury or harm to the employee. In order to overcome the workers compensation bar, the employer’s intentional conduct must be directed at the injuries underlying the lawsuit, not later investigative events. Furthermore, it found that there was no evidence that the employer had fraudulently concealed the forklift. The Appellate Division affirmed the decision based on the lower court’s analysis.


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