The New Jersey Supreme Court reinstated a jury verdict for a worker whose foot was surgically amputated after it was crushed during a workplace incident.
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the reinstatement of a judgment in favor of Philip Pantano, who worked as a mechanic for Container Services in New Jersey.
Mr. Pantano was injured in November 2013 while moving heavy industrial equipment. Co-worker Lawrence Giamella used a forklift to try to pry the equipment away from Mr. Pantano, but the forklift slipped and Mr. Pantano’s foot was crushed, leading to surgical amputation.
The Supreme Court ruled that a jury, not a judge, should have decided whether Giamella was a “loaned employee”; of Mr. Pantano’s employer. The judges said the trial judge erred in finding the company lacked control over Giamella.
After the injury, Mr. Pantano filed for workers’ compensation benefits and later sued Container Services of New Jersey and Marine Transport Inc.
During litigation, Marine Transport argued that it was not Mr Giamella’s employer and should not be vicariously liable.
A jury found Giamella partially negligent and awarded $861,000 in damages to Pantano, but a judge vacated the verdict on the “loaned employee” issue and ruled in favor of Sea Transportation.
An appeals court reversed the decision and reinstated the verdict, but Marine Transport appealed, arguing that the “loaned employee” issue should be decided by a judge, not a jury.
The Supreme Court said the Appellate Division correctly determined that the issue should be decided by a jury, and the justices ordered the trial court to reinstate the jury’s verdict for Mr. Pantano.