Workers' Compensation

New Jersey: Attorney’s Fees in Death Benefits Case Should be Based on Mortality Tables for Surviving Spouse

A New Jersey appellate court affirmed a final judgment entered by the Division of Workers’ Compensation awarding fees to counsel for the surviving spouse of a worker who succumbed to an occupational disease based on the surviving spouse’s expected lifetime, as determined from mortality tables published in the New Jersey Rules of Court, as opposed to what the employer contended was the “long-accepted” basis for such calculation: a 450-week period of total permanent benefit payments. The court observed that the employer had conceded that, as the judge of compensation determined, a dependent spouse awarded compensation under N.J.S.A. 34:15 13 has always been entitled to receive dependency benefits for the remainder of his or her life or until he or she remarries, not just for the initial 450-week period. The court reasoned that since both the 450-week period and the table methods of calculation were subject to the vagaries of death and remarriage, the table method of computing fees was not unreasonable.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See Collas v. Raritan River Garage, 2019 N.J. Super. LEXIS 117(July 19, 2019)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 133.03.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law