Worker who was Severely Injured in Fall at New Jersey Worksite was Employee for Purposes of Worker’s Compensation
April 24, 2018
Ty Hyderally, Esq., and Jennifer, Esq.
On April 9, 2012, Daryl Hopkins was working on a demolition project in Newport, New Jersey. Hopkins was inspecting a silo for safety, prior to working on it, and fell 60 feet. Due to the fall, Hopkins was severely injured. He sustained a spinal injury, and now lives with quadriplegia.
When he sustained this injury, Hopkins was working for Capone Transportation, doing demolition work on a contract Capone Scrap Iron & Metal had negotiated with Lehigh Hanson, Inc. Capone Scrap had assigned this contract to Capone Transportation, because Capone Transportation had Worker’s Compensation coverage, while Capone Scrap did not. (Capone Scrap assigned the contract, without the consent of Lehigh Hanson, even though the contract specified that Capone Scrap could not assign the contract without Lehigh Hanson’s consent.)
In the Worker’s Compensation hearing which followed, the Judge considered testimony and documentary evidence, and found that Capone Transportation was Hopkins’s employer. Capone Transportation’s insurance carrier, faced with the possibility of providing coverage for Hopkins, who had suffered such a severe injury, appealed, claiming that Hopkins was not an employee of Capone Transportation.
The Appellate Division, in an April 16, 2018, decision, affirmed that Capone Transportation was, in fact, Hopkins’s employer. The Court noted that it had to uphold the Compensation Judge’s decision, “if the factual findings are supported by reasonable and sufficient evidence.” The evidence reviewed by the Compensation Judge in this matter included testimony that: Capone Transportation provided Hopkins with equipment necessary to perform his job duties; Hopkins had previously worked for Capone Transportation; Capone Transportation was familiar with Hopkins’s skills; Capone Transportation’s owner provided its payroll company every week with information on Hopkins’s wages; that same payroll company provided Hopkins with a W-2 for 2012, which identified Capone Transportation as the source of Hopkins’s wages; and Capone Transportation’s owner’s father served as foreman for the demolition project, gave instructions to the demolition crew, and paid Hopkins $1,200 per week.
The Appellate Division also reviewed the purposes of the Worker’s Compensation Act, which is “remedial social legislation” to be given “liberal construction,” to best accomplish its “beneficent purposes.” Further, the Court stated that the, “Act is interpreted broadly in favor of coverage.”
The Court then applied two different tests to determine whether Hopkins was an employee of Capone Transportation: the “control test,” and the “relative nature of the work test.” Applying these two tests to the evidence discussed above, the Appellate Division affirmed the Compensation Judge’s decision in favor of Hopkins.
The case of Darryl Hopkins, who was so severely injured while working in New Jersey, illustrates exactly why it is so crucial that employers are required to carry Worker’s Compensation insurance, and why the Worker’s Compensation Act should be broadly construed to provide coverage to injured workers. Without such a requirement and such an interpretation of the Act, Darryl Hopkins and many other employees would be unable to successfully stand up to employers and insurance carriers who seek to deny coverage.
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