A worker who was injured by a forklift failed to comply with the rules of evidence to establish "deliberate error" and her claims are therefore excluded by the Work Compensation Act.
In Spatola v. Seabrook Brothers & Sons Inc., a third panel of the Board of Appeal of New Jersey, the Appellate Division confirmed a district court on Tuesday that the employee's compensation was the only treatment available to the employee to recover from her injuries.
Denise Spatola worked for fresh and frozen vegetable processor Seabrook Brothers & Sons Inc., based in Seabrook, New Jersey, in the area where frozen vegetables were sorted and repackaged according to customer specifications. On the day of the event, she waited for forklifts to clear the area before going to the vegetable station, where she worked as a data consultant. She said she saw a forklift out of her eye and screamed "stop" but the operator didn't see her and ran over her foot and caused serious injury. The forklift operator tested negative for drugs and alcohol.
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Authority had received 1
She filed a complaint against her employer claiming that Seabrook Brother's intentional behaviors were in a hurry to not force their trucks. The company moved for summary judgment, and in 2019, a trial judge granted the proposal and claimed that Spatola failed to meet the high threshold that Seabrook Brother's conduct was a deliberate act of letting her "vault" the exclusive laws of the Labor Compensation Act. She appealed and argued that the judge failed to make reasonable conclusions in her favor and that she established both the conduct and the context of the deliberate, erroneous exception.
The appeal court in New Jersey confirmed the verdict. The court said it was "involuntary" that Ms. Spatola showed a deliberate error that was enough to indicate a negligence claim against her employer. Although she argued that the overload in her department, inadequate forklift and forklift accidents met the behavior, the court held that she could not show a confirmatory act that made the workplace much less secure for her employee, she was limited to the remedies available under the law about work compensation.
Ms. Spatola's lawyer Michael Contarino refused to comment on the decision but said he was planning to appeal to the New Jersey High Court. Neither Seabrook Brothers nor its lawyer immediately responded to the request for comment.