Wirth v. Hoboken BOE

Client: Hoboken BOE (JIF)

Court: Appellate

Brief Attorney: Andrea L. Schlafer, Esq.

Trial Attorney: Andrea L. Schlafer, Esq.

**Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances**

Ms. Ryan-Wirth filed a claim petition and motion for medical and temporary disability benefits seeking an order compelling the Hoboken Board of Education to pay for her fusion surgery as well as temporary disability benefits. 

Petitioner, a full-time school nurse at the Hoboken Middle School, applied for a position as a student monitor for some extra income.  The service was known as the A.M. Care Program for students who needed to arrive early to school. Teachers and other staff who provided monitoring services received a stipend of $30 per day. Petitioner arrived on September 10, 2019 but claimed to have received very little instruction on her first day. The next day on September 11, 2019, she came to school early with the intention of participating in the A.M. Care Program.  However, she instead engaged in a Cardio Class occurring in the gymnasium.

Ms. Ryan-Wirth testified that upon entering the school she was greeted by the Principal, who was dressed in workout clothes. She claimed the Principal informed her that there was no need for any additional A.M. Care Program monitors that morning, but that she was welcome to participate in the Cardio Club. Ms. Ryan-Wirth maintained that she felt pressured to participate in the Cardio Club because the Principal was her boss. Ms. Ryan-Wirth suffered serious back injuries on September 11, 2019, while pulling a car tire in a relay race, falling backwards on her rear end. 

On cross examination, petitioner admitted that she had a personal motive for wanting to participate in the Cardio Club.  She said that six weeks after giving birth, her doctor cleared her to exercise.  She went for walks and she went to the gym twice a week. After giving birth, she participated in a weight loss challenge to lose 30 pounds by Christmas for a cash prize.

Petitioner’s attorney maintained that petitioner was on school grounds on a work day when she was injured, and she felt pressured to participate in the Cardio Club.  The Judge of Compensation ruled against petitioner and held that petitioner’s injury did not arise from work.  Petitioner appealed.  The Appellate Court first reviewed the recent decision in Goulding where a cook volunteered to participate in a Family Fun Day and was injured while cooking for guests and employees. In that case the Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Goulding’s injury was not a recreational activity because she was doing the same work she always did during the week and because she did not participate in any of the games or activities.

The Appellate Division believed that Ms. Ryan-Wirth was not participating in a recreational activity under N.J.S.A. 34:15-7 because the Cardio Club was not really a social or recreational activity given its emphasis on learning for students.  But as to petitioner the Appellate Division held that the activity did not arise out of work. 

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