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Welch v. Schneider Nat'l Bulk Carriers

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 20558
Nos. No. 87-2212, 676 F. Supp. 571/27 ERC 1033/(D.N.J., 12/28/1987)

The court rules that neither the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) nor New Jersey's Right-to-Know Act provides a private cause of action for money damages by an injured employee. Plaintiff was injured in an explosion while cleaning a tankertrailer that contained a dangerous substance, and he now sues his employer in tort and under TSCA and the New Jersey Right-to-Know Act. The court rules that the New Jersey Right-to-Know Act does not authorize a private action for money damages for personal injury. Although the citizen suit provision of the Act refers to civil actions "in law or equity," the regulatory nature of the entire act indicates that the provision is designed to provide citizens with an enforcement rather than a compensatory device. In addition, New Jersey's Workers' Compensation Act contains an exclusive remedy provision that would conflict with plaintiff's interpretation of the Right-to-Know Act. Moreover, defendant was not in violation of the Right-to-Know Act at the time of the accident. The court next rules that TSCA authorizes civil actions merely to restrain violations of the Act and not to recover damages for personal injuries. Case law supports this construction of the enforcement provision of TSCA and similar provisions of other environmental statutes. The court holds that plaintiff's tort claims against his employer are barred by the exclusive remedy provision in New Jersey's Workers' Compensation Act. Plaintiff's claims do not fall within the intentional wrong exception to the exclusive remedy provision, since plaintiff does not allege intent or substantial certainty. The court also holds that the Workers' Compensation Act precludes claims by another defendant against plaintiff's employer for contribution and indemnity.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Richard A. Stanko
Kassab, Cherry, Archbold, Ferrara & Mutzel
214 N. Jackson St., P.O. Box 626, Media PA 19063
(215) 565-3800

Counsel for Defendant
Raymond W. Cobb
Palmer, Biezup & Henderson
6 Kings Hwy. East, Haddonfield NJ 08033
(609) 428-7717