Award of disability retirement benefits not evidence of work-related injury
Dzienkiewicz v. Department of Correction, et al., No. SC 18255 (Conn. 04/14/09).
Ruling: The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the denial of workers' compensation benefits, finding that the workers' compensation commission was not required to admit a state medical examining board's award of disability retirement benefits as evidence of causation.
What it means:
In Connecticut, a decision of one administrative agency is not binding on another administrative body, and the court is not required to hear one body's determination as to cause of injury before issuing its opinion.
A corrections officer was diagnosed with hypertension and a stroke and was determined totally disabled. A medical board awarded him disability retirement benefits.
The officer argued this was proof that his disability was "service connected." The officer sought workers' compensation benefits, alleging his condition was caused by the stress of his job. He testified that the day of his stroke was extremely stressful at work. The employer objected to the admission of the medical board's determination of disability as evidence asserting that eligibility was determined differently than workers' compensation.
The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the medical board's decision was not binding on the workers' compensation commissioner's decision in awarding benefits. The court agreed that there were substantive and procedural differences between the decision rendered by the medical board and the workers' compensation commissioner. The court held that the employer and the medical board did not share a common interest in declaring the officer disabled, nor a relationship in which the statements of the medical examining board should be ascribed to the employer or accepted by the workers' compensation commission. Thus, there was no error in excluding the medical board's disability determination.
The court also agreed that the corrections officer had failed to establish credible evidence that his work had been the substantial contributing factor in his stroke and accepted the testimony of the employer's medical expert of a preexisting condition.
The court concluded that the medical board's decision as to causation was properly excluded and upheld the denial of workers' comp benefits.
May 28, 2009
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