PETITION TO STOP THE CLOSURE OF THE LEBANON WORKER'S COMPENSATION COURT
We understand it has been proposed to close the Lebanon Worker's Compensation Court, located in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. It has also been proposed that the matters venued in the Lebanon Court will be heard in Mount Arlington (Morris County) and New Brunswick (Middlesex County).
The closure of the Workers’ Compensation Court in Lebanon will result in there being no Workers’ Compensation Court serving the Counties of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren.
We believe it is wrong to close the Lebanon Court. It violates statutory law, which allows cases to be heard either in the county in which the injury occurred, or in which the petitioner or respondent resides, or in which the respondent’s place of business is located.
We understand that the Workers’ Compensation Court in Lebanon was created as part of a settlement. The Lebanon Court was considered to be a central location or “regional court” and was agreed to in lieu of filing a lawsuit against the State to compel the State to keep separate Courts in each County, as required by Statute. The proposed closure of the Lebanon Court violates that agreement.
The closure of the Lebanon Court will directly affect injured workers residing in Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren Counties who will now be required to travel sixty (60) to ninety (90) minutes each way just to get to a Workers’ Compensation Court.
Many of these residents have been devastated by catastrophic work injuries. They often lack adequate cars and cannot physically tolerate the long car trip.
Additionally, injured workers whose benefits are denied and are left with absolutely no source of income are generally the claimants who need to travel to Court most frequently. These residents must often must either appear in Court or be "on call" repeatedly, prepared to show up in Court at a moment's notice. If a local hearing is not provided, cases will inevitably be delayed due to the distance, leaving these residents to wait even longer for lost wage benefits and medical care.
The transfer of Lebanon’s three thousand eight hundred and forty two cases (3,842) will adversely affect and overburden the New Brunswick and Mt. Arlington Workers’ Compensation Courts, which are experiencing backlogs in the administration of justice as well as the limited facility space and lack of adequate parking in New Brunswick.
We believe it is unfair to selectively target the Lebanon Court since the number of cases currently in Lebanon, 3,842, is comparable to several other Workers’ Compensation Courts throughout the State that are not being closed; specifically, Bridgeton with only 2,699 cases; Trenton with 4,302 cases, Mount Holly with only 4,446 cases and Mt. Arlington with 4,856 cases.
We believe the need for cost savings, given as the reason for closing the Court, lacks justification since all of the costs for maintaining the Workers’ Compensation Court in Lebanon come out of the Second Injury Fund appropriation paid for bythe insurance industry and self-insured's,with no general State funds----- THAT IS NO TAXPAYERS FUNDS----- pay for the Lebanon Court.
By our signature, we demand that the Lebanon Worker’s Compensation Court remain open for the benefit of the injured workers residing in Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren Counties.