Dorsey & Semrau Recognized For Carabello vs. Jersey City Police Department
On March 25, 2019, the Supreme Court decided Caraballo v. Jersey City Police Department, _N.J._, 2019 WL 1320658 (2019). After the Supreme Court granted certification, the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, intervened, as amicus curiae, on behalf of itself and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, along with the New Jersey Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund. Fred Semrau of Dorsey & Semrau, was the attorney for the amici; Susan C. Sharpe, of that firm argued the cause and Ms. Sharpe and Edward Pasternak were on the brief.
They were successful in persuading the Court to reverse an Appellate Division ruling denying summary judgment in a Law Against Discrimination Case. The court summarized their argument as follows:
“The Municipal Amici agree with the JCPD’s arguments and also highlight that Caraballo’s LAD claim is “inexorably intertwined” with his workers’ compensation claim. According to the Municipal Amici, an employee who fails to avail himself of the [Workers’ Compensation] Act’s exclusive remedies should not be permitted to benefit from his own neglect in seeking treatment in a failure-to-accommodate claim under the LAD. Those amici also urge this Court to conclude that medical treatment cannot qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the LAD. They argue that Caraballo’s position, if accepted, would allow employees to “leverage the threat of a LAD suit against an employer if a demand for workers’ compensation benefits is denied.”
Caraballo was a police officer in Jersey City. He sustained injuries to his hands, back, knees, and legs during a motor vehicle accident while on duty. The injuries to his knees were severe and became chronic. As a result of those injuries, Caraballo fluctuated between full duty, light duty, and paid sick leave throughout the remainder of his tenure on the police force. His worker’s compensation claim was filed shortly after the injury and continued for twelve years before it was settled. About five years into the compensation proceeding, the examining physicians authorized knee replacement surgery for both knees, but Caraballo did not undergo the surgery or take any actions to enforce his rights to that surgery in the worker’s compensation case. While the compensation case was still pending, the Jersey City Police Chief learned that Caraballo had not undergone the surgery, and proposed that Caraballo retire and, if he did not, the Chief advised that he would file for Caraballo’s involuntary disability retirement. Caraballo retired. Shortly after settlement of his worker’s compensation case, he filed a Law Division complaint under the LAD, alleging that Jersey City had failed to accommodate his disability. The Law Division granted summary judgment in favor of the city and the Appellate Division reversed.”
In reversing the Appellate Division and reinstating the summary judgment, the Supreme Court, for the reasons stated in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Solomon, held that Caraballo’s failure to utilize the Act’s administrative remedies to obtain knee replacement surgery precluded his failure-to-accommodate claim under the LAD. In addition, Caraballo’s total knee replacement surgery could not qualify as a reasonable accommodation under the LAD.
The Amicus Committee of the Institute evaluates requests for intervention on behalf of the League and intervenes when it concludes that a case involves important legal or policy issues for local governments.
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