Case name: Wikander v. Asbury Automotive Group, No. AC 33891 (Conn. App. Ct. 08/28/12).
Ruling: The Connecticut Appellate Court held that a widow timely filed a claim for benefits within two years of a worker's fatal heart attack.
What it means: In Connecticut, a two-year filing period applies for the dependents of workers who suffer a work-related accident and death on the same day.
Summary: A worker suffered a fatal heart attack while on a business trip in Texas. The medical examiner determined that the conditions of his employment created considerable stress and the work-related stress was a "major contributing factor" to his death. A cardiologist agreed that there was a causal link between the worker's work-related stress and his sudden death. The worker's widow sought benefits nearly two years after his death. The employer argued that the claim for benefits was untimely. The Connecticut Appellate Court held that the widow timely filed her claim for benefits.
The court explained that a claim for benefits must be filed within one year from the date of the accident. If death resulted within two years from the date of the accident, a dependent can file a claim within the two-year period or one year from the date of death, whichever is later. Despite the employer's arguments, the court found that the legislature did not intent a shorter filing period for the dependents of workers who suffered a work-related injury and death on the same day. The court said that the day of an act generally does not count when determining when a filing period runs, but "courts must interpret statutes using common sense."
The court pointed out that the employer did not file a form contesting liability for the worker's fatal heart attack. Therefore, it was presumed that his heart attack was a work-related accidental injury, which caused his death on the same day of the accident. A two-year period to file a claim applied.
A concurring judge suggested that the legislature clarify the statute for the limitation period for an injury that causes a worker to die on the date of the accident.
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November 1, 2012
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