Winning is often a matter of inches in football. The Northfield firm of Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo has shown it can be in law, too.

The case involved an employee of Harrah’s Atlantic City Resort and Casino whose vehicle was struck on the road next to the resort’s parking lot.

The woman sought benefits under workers compensation insurance, which covers employees injured in the course of their employment. But the casino hotel argued that since the accident occurred not while on the job but on a public road, she was ineligible.

The case went to the New Jersey Appellate Court, where the employee was represented by Frank Petro.

The Appellate Court ruled Jan. 17 that while the part of the woman’s SUV that was struck was indeed on a public road and therefore now separated from her employment at Harrah’s, her vehicle was in part still on the employer-designated parking lot and therefore she was still an employee at that moment and entitled to workers compensation benefits.

In doing so, the appeals panel upheld a decision by a workers compensation judge.

“The Appellate Division agreed with the trial judge that the workers compensation law is to be liberally interpreted in a common-sense fashion to protect employees until they have fully left their place of employment,” Petro said in a statement.

So remember, employees, if you see trouble coming, keep a foot or a wheel on company property if you want to still be covered by workers compensation.

Right to repair

There was good news this week — maybe — for drivers and independent auto repair shops.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes nearly all the major carmakers, agreed to accept “a national agreement to ensure consumer choice in post-warranty auto repair.”

At issue is whether automakers will give owners and independent shops fair access to all of the information (including software) and tools needed to repair and maintain today’s increasingly complex vehicles.

For decades, the automakers have favored their own authorized shops, making some repairs difficult or impossible for independent, often lower-priced auto repair businesses.

Who hasn’t been told by their mechanic that for a particular procedure or part you’ll have to go to the dealer?

Joining the automakers in the agreement were the Association of Global Automakers, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association and the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality.

The national agreement is based on a right to repair law enacted at the end of last year in Massachusetts. It includes a Memorandum of Understanding that extends the provisions of that state’s law nationwide.

A similar law has been building support in the New Jersey Legislature for many years and looked like it might finally pass this year.

The automakers apparently realized that continued opposition to right to repair might simply leave them facing numerous state laws, each a bit different, complicating compliance.

The groups agreed to work together to implement the provisions of the Massachusetts law, which ensure fairly priced access to the software, information, tools and anything else needed to make repairs.

The statute says that for the 2002 model year and thereafter, “a manufacturer of motor vehicles sold in the commonwealth shall make available for purchase by owners of motor vehicles … and by independent repair facilities the same diagnostic and repair information, including repair technical updates, that such manufacturer makes available to its dealers.”

Like the New Jersey proposal, the Mass. law also specifies that as of model year 2018, manufacturers “shall provide access to their onboard diagnostic and repair information system, as required under this section, using an off-the-shelf personal computer.”

That will be a great day when it arrives for small shops and the dwindling number of amateurs who still work on their own cars.

I used to build cars (Ford Pintos) and repaired my own cars much of my life, and would love to have been able to plug my car’s computer into my home computer and quickly find out what was wrong.

The organizations also agreed “that further state legislation is not needed” and said they will “stand down in their fight on ‘Right to Repair’ and work to oppose individual state legislation while our respective groups work to implement this Memorandum of Understanding.”

That’s where the “maybe” comes in.

Automakers have been inventive in resisting right to repair and maintaining a proprietary advantage on fixing vehicles, and gaming a voluntary agreement would surely be easier than getting around a federal law.

For now, all the groups involved get the benefit of the doubt and congratulations.

But we’ll keep watching for timely and full implementation.

Contact Kevin Post:


More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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