THIRD DEPARTMENT AFFIRMS BOARD DECISION FINDING AN EMPLOYER-EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RESEARCHER AND MEDICAL SCHOOL

Matter of Schwenger v. NYU School of Medicine, 2015 N.Y. Slip Op. 01839 (App. Div., 3rd Dept. 3/5/2015)

Workers’ Comp Sole Redress, Panel Finds, New York Law Journal, March 10, 2015

Jones Jones recently had an opportunity to represent an employer in a somewhat interesting and unusual case. The claimant was performing post-doctoral research at NYU Medical Center. He alleges exposure to a particular strain of virus. (Whether he was truly exposed is a matter of dispute). The claimant filed a lawsuit against NYU Medical Center, claiming $50,000,000.00 in damages. NYU Medical Center filed for summary judgment, arguing that the claimant’s only potential remedy is through Workers’ Compensation. The plaintiff/claimant  maintained that he was not an employee. The presiding Judge found that the WCB is charged with making a determination as to whether the claimant was an employee or not.

The claimant was conducting research with  funding coming from a National Institute of Health grant, and argued that under Federal law, he must be found to be something other than an employee. This fact pattern put defense counsel in the somewhat unusual position of arguing that there was an employer-employee relationship, whereas the claimant was arguing that there was no such relationship. The litigation also involved an interplay between Federal statutes and regulations- and even the Federal Constitution- and New York WC Law. While the presiding WCLJ originally found no employer-employee relationship, Jones Jones successfully secured a reversal of that ruling. Claimant requested Full Board Review, which was defeated as well. The matter was then appealed up to the Appellate Division, Third Department. At the Appellate Division, Jones Jones successfully secured a decision affirming the Board Panel’s determination that, notwithstanding the funding of claimant’s research through a Federal grant, there still was an employer-employee relationship. With this favorable ruling in hand, our client will be pursuing its summary judgment motion to have the lawsuit against our client dismissed.

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