Client: United Airlines
Trial Counsel: Prudence M. Higbee, Esq.
The petitioner, a New Jersey resident who works for the respondent as an aircraft mechanic at the Philadelphia International Airport in Pennsylvania, filed two claim petitions. Claim Petition 2016-31488 alleges that on January 31, 2015 the petitioner injured his left hip while changing brakes, tires and helping a co-employee with an engine job. The respondent admitted this claim but alleged that it made full payment of benefits to petitioner under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law. Claim Petition 2016-31489 alleges that petitioner’s repetitive duties as an aircraft mechanic working for respondent during the period commencing from January 1, 1986 through the present caused injury to his left hip. Respondent denied compensability of this claim leaving petitioner to his proofs.
Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss both claims for Lack of Jurisdiction arguing that although petitioner is a New Jersey resident the injuries alleged in the Claim Petitions occurred in Pennsylvania where the contract of hire was also executed. Of note, the New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Act does not have an extra-territoriality jurisdiction provision and instead requires consideration of the particular facts of a case.
In finding for the respondent the trial judge noted six possible grounds for asserting applicability of a particular state’s compensation act: 1) place where the injury occurred; 2) place of making the contract; 3) place where the employment relation exists or is carried out; 4) place where the industry is localized; 5) place where the employee resides; or 6) place whose statutes the parties expressly adopted by contract.
The trial judge found that the petitioner’s contact with New Jersey in performing his job are not material in nature, nor is there any connection to the injury. Although the Newark, New Jersey Airport is a “hub” with vastly more mechanics than Philadelphia, the petitioner only called there for advice and at most “once every couple of months.” The petitioner could not recall ever working in the Newark, New Jersey airport and he never picked up any parts in Newark.
After reviewing those factors the trial judge ultimately noted that the alleged injuries occurred at the petitioner’s place of employment in Pennsylvania where the contract of hire was also signed. The Judge noted that the localization of the industry noted in prong four has never been found to confer jurisdiction on a respondent. After acknowledging a present dispute among the Appellate Division panels, the trial judge found that although the petitioner did reside within New Jersey that residency alone is insufficient in conferring jurisdiction. The petitioner has subsequently filed an appeal of the trial judge’s findings. That appeal is presently pending before the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division.