Application of Statute of Limitations in Occupational Exposures Claims

As every stage of an occupational exposure claim, respondents should scrutinize whether the claim is barred by the statute of limitations. The Appellate Division addressed application of the statute of limitations when it comes to occupational disease claims. In Rajpaul v. McDonald’s Corporation, A-4681-13T4 (App. Div. August 28, 2015), the court of compensation granted the employer’s motion to dismiss a claim as time barred because it was not filed within two years from the date the claimant knew the nature of his condition and understood its relation to work. The claimant was first diagnosed with bilateral shoulder bicipital tendonitis during the period he worked for the employer. About five months after he stopped working for the employer, he was diagnosed with a torn left shoulder rotator cuff and underwent surgical repair. He filed a claim petition more than two years after the diagnosis of tendonitis but fewer than two years after he was diagnosed with the torn rotator cuff. In reversing the trial court, the Appellate Division determined that the statute of limitations did not start running on the torn rotator cuff diagnosis until it was diagnosed.

This case illustrates one of the nuances of the statute of limitations defense. Employers should still continue to examine and raise the defense in occupational disease claims. It could still help to limit overall, if not all, exposure.