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 Worker Can't Pursue Civil Claim for Workplace Fall Before Presenting Claim to WCB:



A New York appellate court ruled that a worker's claim for damages based on an alleged fall in the parking lot of her workplace had to go through the Workers' Compensation Board before she could pursue a personal injury action.


Case: Narro v. MMC Holding of Brooklyn, No. 2013-02677, 09/17/2014, published.


Facts: Veronica Narro worked for the Maimonides Medical Center. She allegedly suffered injuries when she fell in a parking garage owned by Maimonides while walking toward the building where her workplace was located to begin her regular shift.


Procedural History: Narro did not file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Instead, she filed a personal injury suit against Maimonides.


Maimonides moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, asserting that the state Workers' Compensation Law provided the exclusive remedy for Narro's alleged accident.


Kings County Supreme Court Justice Leon Ruchelsman denied this motion.


Analysis: The Appellate Division's 2nd Department explained that primary jurisdiction with respect to determinations as to the applicability of the Workers' Compensation Law has been vested in the Workers' Compensation Board.


"Where the issue of the applicability of the Workers' Compensation Law is in dispute, and a plaintiff fails to litigate that issue before the Board, a court should not express an opinion as to the availability of compensation, but should refer the matter to the Board because the Board's disposition of the plaintiff's compensation claim is a jurisdictional predicate to the civil action," the court said.


In this case, since there had been no determination by the Board as to whether Narro was entitled to workers' compensation benefits, the court said the matter should have been referred to the Board to decide that issue.


Disposition: Reversed and remitted.


To read the decision, click here.

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