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Coffee run nets workers’ comp for South Jersey plumber

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Moral of the story: Have good coffee in the break room.

When plumber Jesse Cooper made a coffee run in 2003, he had no idea he would wind up in a traffic accident, let alone spend seven years in court. A Superior Court judge recently ruled Cooper was entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits because his midmorning trip to get a cuppa joe was in the course of employment.

Cooper arrived on time at the union hall in Winslow for a meeting with a union official. But the man was tied up teaching a class, and Cooper wanted coffee. Finding none at the hall and with time on his hands, he headed for a deli some five miles away.

Then, within a mile of his caffeine Mecca, he crashed his truck, breaking an arm and both legs.

When he filed for workers’ comp, his employer disputed the claim. The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Board deemed Cooper 100% disabled and awarded him full benefits, based on the idea that coffee breaks, no matter how distant, are part of the workday. Cooper’s employer appealed.

Now Superior Court Judge Edwin H. Stern has upheld Cooper’s benefits award. “It cannot be expected that he would stand like a statue or remain at the union hall with nothing to do for a period,” Stern wrote, “particularly when there was no coffee available at the site.”

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