On January 23, 2015, the Appellate Division addressed the issue of whether the Division of Workers Compensation properly denied, with prejudice, a motion to re-open claim petitions. In Williams v. Ready Pack, the Petitioner was injured as a result of two accidents occurring on May 18 and May 22, 2006. Her claims were resolved by an Order Approving Settlement on August 11, 2008. On August 10, 2010, the Petitioner filed an Application for Review or Modification of Formal Award. She failed to appear for the Respondent’s evaluation on August 25, 2011 and on September 2, 2011, she was murdered.
The Respondent was not informed of the Petitioner’s death and rescheduled the Petitioner’s evaluation on two occasions. As no further action was taken on the matter, the case was dismissed on September 24, 2012 pursuant to the motion filed by the Respondent. The counsel for Petitioner wrote two letters in 2012 in an attempt to locate potential administrators for the estate. A Motion to Restore was subsequently filed by the Petitioner’s attorney, seeking to have the matter reinstated and the award paid to the estate as letters of administration were obtained. In denying the Motion to Restore, the Judge of Workers’ Compensation determined that the letters of administration were insufficient to establish good cause to reinstate the claim.
The Appellate Division confirmed that “good cause” is defined as a substantial reason that affords legal excuse for the default and stated that a “balancing of equities” is necessary to make that determination. In reversing the lower court’s decision, the Appellate Division determined that the Petitioner’s death was a substantial reason that affords the excuse for the default and held that it would be “inequitable to bar the courthouse door to her heirs.”