NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.
Select a state from the dropdown menu below to scroll through the state specific archives for updates and opinions on various workers’ compensation laws in your state.
Contact information for NWCDN members is also located on the state specific links in the event you have additional questions or your company is seeking a workers’ compensation lawyer in your state.
2022 LEGISLATIVE REPORT
The Connecticut legislature short session ended May 4, 2022. Despite the short session, a number of workers' compensation related bills were proposed. The two Senate bills which garnered most of the attention focused on an attempt to adopt the recommendations of the task force created by Special Act 21-35 to study cancer relief benefit for firefighters (SB-313), and a bill which proposed expanding workers' compensation coverage for all employees sustaining post-traumatic stress injuries (SB-321). I will herein provide a summary of the legislature's final action relative to these bills and on other matters germane to the workers' compensation practitioner.
PUBLIC ACT 22-139 “An Act Concerning Adoption of the Recommendations of the Task Force to Study Cancer Relief Benefits for Firefighters" As of the preparation of this report, the new law was on the governor's desk. The new law, however, is of much lesser potential benefit than the underlying Senate bill. Senate Bill No. 313 as originally drafted was expansive legislation that would have created a rebuttable presumption to the benefit of firefighters who developed cancers beyond those listed in Section 31-294j of the Act. Six circumstances would have rebutted the “presumption.”
The comprehensive provisions of the proposed law called for a number of safety measures and adoption of best practices to prevent cancer. The legislation directed the appropriation of $1.2 million to fund the Firefighter Cancer Relief Account (7-313k), required Workers' Compensation Commission to record all claims of firefighters due to cancer diagnosis with an annual report to the Labor Committee; repealed language that barred a firefighter from receiving funds from the Firefighter Cancer Relief Program if receiving workers' compensation benefits; required the provision of two sets of turnout gear to be provided to firefighters under guidance of CONN-OSHA; required the comptroller to conduct a feasibility study when providing pension benefits to firefighters in circumstances when service years are not met due to early retirement resulting from a cancer diagnosis; and would have expanded 31-284b benefits beyond employee to covered dependents.
The proposed bill did provide departments with the ability to purchase a separate private insurance policy to cover the exposure as long as comparable benefits to our Act were provided.
As noted above, the negotiation process and concerns with the cost of the proposed legislation, however, led to significant amendment of the original bill. Public Act 22-139 mandates that the Joint Counsel of Connecticut Fire Services Organization in consultation with the Connecticut State Firefighter's Association develop a joint plan for maintenance and remediation of toxic substances on turnout gear which plan must be submitted to the Commission of Fire Prevention and Control by July 1, 2023. That commission will thereafter advise fire departments on implementation of the plan. The law mandates that a fire department must adopt a plan within 90 days of the approved plan released by the commission. The Workers' Compensation Commission will now need to maintain a record of all workers' compensation claims made by firefighters with cancer diagnosis. The commission will provide a report summarizing those records to the Joint Standing Committee of the General Assembly relating to labor.
The Cancer Relief Fund statute, § 7-313i, was amended to reflect that payment of wage replacement benefits to a firefighter shall not create a presumption that the cancer is "work related." Payments from the Fund are not to be construed as diminishing the firefighter's rights to benefits or the rights or defenses of the employer under Chapter 568.
The comptroller is directed to conduct a study on the feasibility of providing pensions to firefighters who do not meet the required service due to a qualifying work-related cancer or death. The study is to include an examination of the feasibility of implementing a prorated benefit for such firefighters.
Effective January 1, 2024, each municipality within the state is mandated to contribute $10.00 per firefighter to the Cancer Relief Account with the exception that the municipality need only contribute funds for those members who have submitted to annual physicals failing to reveal cancer or a propensity for cancer and have not used cigarettes within the last 15 years or have worked less than five years. Please note that as of July 1, 2022, qualifying firefighters are now eligible to apply for wage replacement benefits.
I anticipate that as commission reports summarizing cancer claims are received and reviewed that further legislation will be proposed.
Public Act 22-89 "An Act Concerning Minor and Technical Changes to the Workers' Compensation Act" codifies House Bill 5250 as proposed by the Chairperson’s Office of the Commission. The changes are to be effective from passage and were signed by the governor May 24, 2022. The bill corrects references throughout the Act to the Chairman who is now designated Chairperson. The new law also directs that filings under § 31-275 to be included or excluded from coverage under the Act shall now be filed with the Chairperson's office and not the local administrative law judge. The new law also confirms that notices under the Workers' Compensation Act shall be filed by registered or certified mail.
Senate Bill 321 "An Act Expanding Workers' Compensation Coverage for Post-traumatic Stress Injuries for all Employees" ultimately did not come to a vote and remained on the foot of the Senate calendar. The bill which was reported out of the Labor Committee, 13-0, and had significant support in the Appropriations Committee, did not have a final physical note attached that would have projected the cost to the State of Connecticut and municipal employers. The quickly advancing close of the session and other priorities including the governor's budget likely precluded fiscal analysis. I would anticipate that the bill will resurface in next year's longer session.
A number of other bills relevant to the practitioner did not make significant progress beyond the Labor Committee, although House Bill 5251 “An Act Concerning Workers' Compensation for Dispatchers” that would have provided portal-to-portal coverage did reach the house calendar. Senate Bill 222 "An Act Requiring Notice of Discontinuing Prescription Medicine Under a Workers' Compensation Claim" which would have required a Form 36 to discontinue prescription medications did not advance. Similarly, Senate Bill 212 "An Act Concerning Permanent Partial Disability Benefits and Pension Offsets" which would have impacted certain municipalities and fire districts that offset permanent partial disability benefits against pensions failed.
Practitioners who represent individuals who have lost time from work due to COVID-19, however, should be aware that the Implementer Bill or Governor's Budget Bill (Public Act 22-118), at Section 205 contains changes to the "Essential Workers’ COVID-19 Assistance Program" established by Public Act 21-2. The Assistance Program codified as Section 31-900 has been amended to expand the definition of essential employee to include those in Phase 1C as defined in the CDC's Prevention Advisory Committee on immunization practices. Additional eligible employees, therefore, would include those in the transportation industries, logistics, waste water treatment, finance, information technologies, legal, media, public safety, public health, and engineers. The amendments include the elimination of a possible double recovery as a result of payments under the State's Paid Leave Program. The law extends the deadline for application for assistance from July 20, 2022 to December 31, 2022.
Some of the difficulties with the rather strict interpretation and review of applications have been addressed in the new law by now allowing the administrator to award partial payments while other aspects of the application are reviewed or subject to requests for additional information. Further, a disability or unemployment claim will not prevent assistance as long as there is an offset for the money received.
The window of eligibility for assistance remains those who contracted the disease between March 10, 2020 and July 10, 2021. The new additions to the law, however, mandate that the administrator review prior denied or pending claims and make new determinations of eligibility.
Of note, with respect to the commission and in particular our administrative law judges were resolutions confirming the reappointment of Judge Peter Mlynarczyk, Judge Brenda Jannotta, and confirming the nomination of our newest administrative law judge, Zachary Delaney. Congratulations to all. Also of note is that Judge Mlynarczyk, Judge Dilzer and Judge Oslena were named to be members of the Judicial Review Counsel.
Please note that the complete text of all public acts, proposed bills and analyses are available on the General Assembly website, cga.ct.gov.
* * * * * *
CONNECTICUT WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION NEWS
On October 6, 2022, a retirement celebration was held for Administrative Law Judge Randy L. Cohen at the Waters Edge at Giovanni’s in Darien. Best Wishes to Judge Cohen on her retirement! We thank her for her service to the Workers’ Compensation Commission since being appointed in 2007. Judge Cohen's prior experience as a Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation claimant's attorney was an asset to the Commission for both claimants and respondents. Judge Cohen's dedication to the Commission continues as she will assist with pre-formal hearings in the Seventh District per diem, as needed. Judge Cohen also will be performing private mediation in workers’ compensation cases in her new business RESOLVE IT!
Memorandum 2022-09 has been issued by Chief Administrative Law Judge Morelli regarding maximum compensation rates. The Chairman has ordered that the maximum total disability rate for injuries occurring after October 1, 2022 is $1,509 (based on the estimated average weekly wage of all employees in Connecticut). The maximum temporary partial/permanent partial disability rate for accidents after October 1, 2022 is $1,108 (based on the average weekly earnings of production and related workers in manufacturing in Connecticut).
Please note that the TP/PPD maximum rate went down from $1,140 in 2021 to $1,108 in 2022.
The Workers’ Compensation Commission has developed an online filing Form 6B for officers of a corporation or a member of a limited liability company who wishes to be excluded from workers’ compensation coverage. That link will be available at the commission website as of December 15, 2022.
Administrative Law Judge News:
Administrative Law Judge Zachary Delaney of West Hartford has begun presiding in the Fifth District in Waterbury.
Attorney Nancy Bonuomo has been presiding as interim Administrative Law Judge.
Not surprisingly, as on January 1, 2023 the mileage rate increased to 65.5 cents per mile. As of July 1, 2022 the rate had been 62.5 cents per mile.
Mediation within the Commission:
2022-05 has been issued by the Workers’ Compensation Commission updating the
guidelines for mediation in the Commission.
The following Judges have agreed to participate in the mediation
process: Scott A. Barton
Carolyn M. Colangelo (District 3/New Haven), Daniel E. Dilzer (District 6/New Britain), Maureen E. Driscoll (District 3/New Haven), Brenda D. Jannotta (District 4/Bridgeport), Peter C. Mlynarczyk (District 8/Middletown), Michelle D. Truglia (District 4/Bridgeport), and
William J. Watson III (District 1/Hartford).
Revisions to Forms 30C and 30D:
Memorandum No. 2022-04 has been issued which states:
Pursuant to Public Act 22-139, the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) is required to maintain and report a record of all workers’ compensation cancer claims made by firefighters. In order to accurately collect and record this data, WCC Form 30C “Notice of Claim for Compensation” and Form 30D “Dependents’ Notice of Claim” have been revised. The revision of WCC Form 30C also includes a change to reflect post-traumatic stress injuries made pursuant to C.G.S. Section 31-294k. Please use the most recent revisions of Forms 30C and 30D and check the appropriate box(es) when filing new claims.
As of January 1, 2022, the burial fee for deaths covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act is $12,516.00 based on the overall 2021 CPI-W increase for the northeast of 4.3%. Connecticut General Statutes Section 31-306 was amended in 2021 to reflect that the compensation for burial benefits will be adjusted by the percentage increase in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers in the Northeast as defined in the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor
Chief Administrative Law Judge Morelli has appointed Administrative Law Judges Toni M. Fatone and Soline M. Oslena to sit as panel members on appeals before the Compensation Review Board for the calendar year beginning January 1, 2023.
This Memorandum discusses the way an employer opts out of coverage:
Connecticut General Statutes §31-275(10) sets forth the procedure to be used by an employer who opts in and/or out of coverage under the Workers’ Compensation Act. On July 17, 2013, and pursuant to the authority granted to the Chairman by C.G.S. §31-321, Forms 6B, 6B-1, and 75 were amended to include the instructions that all such documents should be submitted to the office of the Chairman at 21 Oak Street, Hartford, CT 06106.
Public Act 21-76 §17(b) has further clarified the manner in which these forms may be filed. Although §1-268(d) of Chapter 15, the Connecticut Uniform Electronic Transactions Act, states that it does “not apply to any of the rules of court practice and procedure under the Connecticut Practice Book,” the filing of Forms 6B, 6B-1, and 75 are administrative in nature and not legal pleadings. As such, notwithstanding the language in C.G.S. §31-275(10) that requires these documents to be sent certified mail, return receipt requested, they may now be delivered to the office of the Chairman by electronic means with proof of a delivery receipt. The email address to be used for electronic submissions of these forms is WCC.Forms@ct.gov.
Commission Medical Exam (CME) fee has increased to $900; Respondent Medical Exam (RME) fee is still $750.
The Commission does have a website where you can look up such information as to whether a hearing is assigned, list of all claims for an employee, status of a Form 36, and interested parties. This is quite a useful site and is a different website than the Commission’s main site. It can be found at:
JUAN CRUZ V SPEC PERSONNEL, HHD-CV18-5051489-S (2022)
In this lawsuit in Connecticut Superior Court the plaintiff was pursuing a negligence claim for significant injuries that he sustained while working in a warehouse. A forklift operator for another company caused an 800 pound pallet to fall 30 feet crushing the plaintiff. The plaintiff was paralyzed due to the accident. The plaintiff was paid workers’ compensation benefits following the accident. The lawsuit was brought against the forklift operator, his employer, and the company that packaged the product that fell on the plaintiff. A verdict was issued for $100,000,000 (yes 100 million) in favor of the plaintiff and his wife (for loss of consortium claim). This is believed to be the largest verdict for a plaintiff in a Connecticut Superior Court lawsuit. Strunk Dodge Aiken Zovas Attorney Courtney Stabnick represented the co-plaintiff in the case, the employer of the plaintiff, seeking to recover reimbursement of its workers' compensation lien. Attorney Andrew Garza represented the injured employee. Attorney Garza stated this on Facebook regarding his work with Attorney Stabnick in the case: “I’m thankful for the work of Attorney Courtney Stabnick. She’s a wonderful person and advocate for her clients and she understands there’s a human element to the work we do. Too often the default position of lawyers is to be adversarial, because it’s how they’re trained. Her work in this case reflects a high-level understanding of the complex and interrelated dynamics at play in a hybrid workers’ compensation-personal injury case.The best lawyers seek agreement, when possible, but never compromise on fundamentals. Her work resulted in a wonderful outcome for her clients, where the true, culpable party was held responsible and made to repay the damage they caused, and the claimant/plaintiff was supported during the process. Win-win solutions are rare and should be celebrated. Thank you for your work on this case.”
CALLAHAN V HEALTHCARE SERVICES GROUP, 6453 CRB-8-21-11 (November 4, 2022)
The claimant sought to reopen a full and final settlement for $20,000 based on her contention that the stipulation approval hearing was not done in a reasonable manner, she did not understand the stipulation and that she was coerced into accepting the settlement agreement. At hearing on November 14, 2019 Judge Schoolcraft had, on the record, explained the proposed settlement for $20,000 to the claimant; at the hearing the claimant agreed to settle the matter and settlement agreements were approved. The respondent’s tendered to the claimant a check at the hearing for $20,000 and she deposited it in her account. On November 20, 2019 the claimant moved to reopen the settlement agreement. The Compensation Review Board on appeal determined that the stipulation process was appropriate and there was no basis to reopen the settlement agreement. The Board also determined that the trial judge’s denial of a Motion to Correct was appropriate. Attorney Christopher Buccini of SDAZ defended the case for the respondents.
BERRY V. UP REALTY, L.L.C. ET. AL., 6460 CRB-8-21-12 (November 9, 2022)
The claimant sustained a compensable ankle injury on a Friday while breaking up a cast-iron tub; a piece of iron hit him on the medial side of his ankle. Due to pain the employee stopped work an hour and a half after the incident and was driven home by a fellow employee. The claimant did not seek medical treatment over the weekend, although he developed a fever, nausea, and had abdominal pain. On Monday morning he was found naked in bed, in a fetal position and emaciated. An ambulance was called and the claimant was given CPR en route to the hospital. Initial diagnosis was acute respiratory failure, septic shock, and lung mass. Thereafter, the claimant was diagnosed with acute kidney injury secondary to ischemic tubular necrosis. The claimant’s left leg became cold and purple showing mottling. The claimant ultimately underwent a left leg amputation for control of ischemia and systemic toxicity.
The claimant pursued a workers’ compensation claim alleging that the compensable left ankle injury caused the left leg amputation. In support of his claim, he submitted the opinion of Dr. Luchini, an orthopedist, that the collapse on Monday was due to dehydration caused by inability to walk over the weekend post the ankle injury. A cardiologist, Dr. Vidhun, testified that the ankle injury caused circulatory issues in the left leg leading to the amputation. This was countered by the respondents with the testimony of a cardiologist, Dr. Samuel Hahn, who indicated that the ankle injury and left leg ischemia which led to the amputation were not related. The Administrative Law Judge did not find persuasive the opinions of Dr. Luchini and Dr.Vidhun and dismissed the claim and also denied a Motion to Correct filed by the claimant.
On appeal the CRB affirmed the dismissal noting that there was sufficient basis in the record for the Judge to determine that the work accident was not a substantial factor in causing the amputation. The Board noted that there was evidence in the record that the claimant had prior vascular issues. The Board stated that it is the claimant’s burden to prove the work accident is a substantial factor in causing the injury with competent evidence. The CRB provided a thorough review of the case law pertaining to the substantial factor test and the claimant’s burden in that regard.
PREECE V. CITY OF NEW BRITAIN, 6468 CRB-6-22-2 (December 28, 2022)
In what is believed to be the first appellate decision regarding a Covid-19 claim, the Compensation Review Board remanded the case back to the Trial Judge for further determination of the standard of causation that was applied in his dismissal of the case. The claimant was a firefighter for the municipal employer. He supervised three firefighters, had administrative duties and commanded a crew at emergency scenes. On December 30, 2020 the claimant met in person (unmasked) with a fellow firefighter who believed that he was exposed to Covid 19 (it appears this other firefighter eventually tested positive). On January 3, 2021 the claimant tested positive for Covid- 19 based on a routine test administered by the employer; this test was reported to him on January 7, 2021. The claimant also tested positive on January 6, 2021 based on a rapid molecular test. The claimant’s primary medical provider, a APRN, was unable to provide a report establishing a causal relationship between the work and the Covid-19 diagnosis. It appears that the claimant did not present any medical opinion regarding causation at the formal hearing. The Trial Judge dismissed the claim and concluded that the claimant had not met his burden of proof; he also noted that the claim did not qualify for the rebuttable presumption per Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7JJJ since the claimant was not diagnosed between March and May 2020. The Trial Judge stated that since no rebuttable presumption was in place “the claimant would face a higher burden of establishing causation.” The claimant appealed contending that the Trial Judge determined that since the rebuttable presumption did not apply to the claimant then he had a higher burden of establishing causation than an ordinary claim for a workplace injury. The claimant also questioned whether medical evidence was necessary to establish causation in the case given the exposure at work and subsequent diagnosis. The CRB reviewed the applicable substantial factor causation test for workers' compensation claims in Connecticut. Ultimately, the CRB determined that the Judge’s reference to a “higher burden” was “ambiguous.” Accordingly, the Board remanded the case to the Trial Judge for further findings regarding the legal causation standard that he applied and whether expert testimony was necessary in the case to determine causation based on this set of facts.
NASSER V. PREMIER LIMOUSINE OF HARTFORD, 6463 CRB-6-21-12 (December 30, 2022)
The claimant alleged neck and knee injuries in a motor vehicle accident. There was a video of the motor vehicle accident. The treating doctor testified that the video of the motor vehicle accident was inconsistent with claimant’s history of injury. The Trial Judge dismissed the claim because “the video evidence was inconsistent with the claimant’s narrative and that the claimant’s testimony was not persuasive or credible.” The claimant was represented by counsel at the formal hearing and counsel filed an appeal but thereafter the claimant pursued the appeal on his own. The claimant did not file any appellate pleadings such as reasons of appeal or a motion to correct. At argument the claimant did not dispute the Judge’s findings but contended he had problems with the evidence that his attorney presented. The CRB granted a Motion to Dismiss that was filed by the respondents on appeal pursuant to Practice Book 85-1 since the claimant had not filed any appellate documents. The Board in granting the Motion to Dismiss also stated that if they reached the merits of the appeal they would have affirmed the Finding of the Judge since there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the dismissal.