July 29, 2013 Articles

Workers' Compensation Immunity for Companies with Separate Corporate Entities

By Michelle Molinaro Burke and Roy Alan Cohen

Corporate and tax attorneys often advise their clients to create separate business entities for manufacturing, distribution, property ownership, and leasing purposes. This advice often is given as a strategy for insulating certain entities from liability to those injured on premises or in the course of their employment. What works for tax or other purposes may not protect separate corporate entities that are not intertwined with the employer-employee relationship, which through their state's workers' compensation statute would protect against all civil tort liabilities arising from workplace injuries except those involving an "intentional wrong." See, e.g., N.J. Stat. Ann. § 34:15-8; see also Tomeo v. Thomas Whitesell Constr. Co., Inc., 176 N.J. 366, 377–78 (2003); Millison v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 101 N.J. 161, 177 (1985); Kaczorowska v. Nat'l Envelope Corp., 342 N.J. Super. 580, 587 (App. Div. 2001). However, clients should be aware that their corporate organizational structure may put them at risk of civil liability for tort or occupational exposure-based injuries, even without proof of conduct that rises to an "intentional wrong."

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