N.J. court: Changing Workers' Comp deadline for medical providers like 'jamming a square peg into a round hole'

By Gabriel Neves | Feb 5, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) – A New Jersey court has reversed the judgments that dismissed medical provider claims for payment of services in a dispute over the application of a statute of limitations.

Judge Clarkson Fisher, on the bench of the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division, wrote a 15-page ruling issued on Jan. 17, reversing a New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Workers' Compensation decision.

Questioning whether a two-year or six-year statute of limitations applied to their cases were The Plastic Surgery Center, The Woods O.R. Inc., Dr. Steven Paragioudakis, and Dr. Mark Menkowitz.

The cases involved Malouf Chevrolet-Cadillac Inc., Leone Industries and Café Bayou.

In his ruling, Fisher stated that "subjecting medical-provider claims to the two-year time-bar would be like jamming a square peg into a round hole, and that to reinterpret the two-year time-bar to fit such claims would require the reshaping of the edges of this square peg contrary to  principles of judicial restraint."

The cases stem from when the state legislature made changes to New Jersey's Workers' Compensation laws.

"In 2012, the Legislature amended N.J.S.A. 34:15-15, granting the Division of Workers' Compensation (the Division) exclusive jurisdiction over claims brought by medical providers for payment of services rendered to injured employees," Fisher wrote.

"These appeals, which we now consolidate, question whether, through its silence, the Legislature intended – via this 2012 amendment – to apply the two-year statute of limitations, N.J.S.A. 34:15-51, contained in the Workers' Compensation Act (the Act), or whether the Legislature intended to leave things as they were and continue to apply the six-year statute of limitations for suits on contracts, N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1, to such claims," the ruling said.

Before the law, the medical providers were entitled to file a collection for payment in the Superior Court and they had no obligation to participate in a patient's compensation action.

Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division case number  A-5597-16T1

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