Thursday, December 16, 2010

Connecticut Supreme Court Offers Clarification on Timliness of Heart & Hypertension Claims

In a long awaited decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court provided some clarity in the murky waters of when must a police officer or fire fighter bring a heart or hypertension claim under Connnecticut General Statute section 7-433c. In Ciarelli v. Town of Hamden which was released on December 21, 2010, the Court concluded 1.) that a claim for heart and hypertension benefits should not be treated as if it were a repetitive trauma type claim, but rather as an accidental injury, specific to a certain date and time and 2.) the one year statute of limitiation for bringing such a claim begins to run when a claimant receives "an actual diagnosis of hypertension communicated to (him) by a medical professional."

This establishes a black letter rule that seems to be far easier for claimant's and their attorneys to follow in analyzing whether or not an H&H claim is timely. If the doctor tells you you have "hypertension" then the clock begins to run. Isolated elevated readings do not a diagnosis of hypertension make.

If you or a member of your family is in the police or fire fighting fields, and you feel as if you may have a claim for Connecticut heart and hypertension benefits, please call our West Hartford Worker's Compensation office for a no obligation assesment of your particular scenario.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Six Hours Well Spent: The Medical Education of a Connecticut Workers Comp Lawyer

The neurosurgeons and orthopedists at Neurosurgery Orthopedics Spine Specialists (NOSS) in Waterbury, together with two of their colleagues at Orthopedic Associates of Hartford were kind enough to dedicate their day to educating 100 or so of us lawyers toiling in the fields of Connecticut Workers Compensation Law as to the intricacies of diagnosing cervical spine (neck) problems and shoulder injuries. These knowledgeable professionals shared their opinions on the anatomy of both the neck and the shoulder, radio graphic studies, and operative and non operative treatment modalities to work related neck and/or shoulder injuries. It was a wonderful and rewarding experience. I hope to take nuggets of what I learned today and go forward, better able to represent my Connecticut workers in these complicated but common workplace injuries.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Distracted Drivers and Workers Compensation

The trend nationally is to prohibit the use of cell phones in motor vehicles. Such a ban would make use of a cellphone while working a deviation from employment and accidents involving cell phone use at work would then be considered a deviation from employment and excluded from workers' compensation coverage,
Citing cell phone usage while driving, the Federal Government is making a major initiative to get workers off cell phone while at work. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the agenda for the second national Distracted Driving Summit to be held on September 21st , 2010 in Washington, DC.
Building on the success of last year’s summit, Secretary LaHood will convene leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, industry representatives, researchers and victims affected by distraction-related crashes to address challenges and identify opportunities for national anti-distracted driving efforts. U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar will also speak at the summit.
“Thousands of people are killed or injured every year in accidents caused by distracted drivers,” said Secretary LaHood. “One year after our first national Distracted Driving Summit, we will reconvene to take stock of our progress and reassess the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I look forward to hearing insights from our distinguished panelists and guests, and know that by working together, we will save lives.”
The 2010 Distracted Driving Summit will be live webcast at, enabling the participation of people around the country. US employers are urged to set policies to prohibit the use of cell phones at work. "Use a variety of organizational channels to communicate with employees the company's commitment to safety and health and specifically to the nonuse of cell phones and texting. Make it clear to your employees that the expectation is that they will NOT talk or text on their cell phones while driving on company time or in company vehicles. Have employees sign a contract that says they will not violate the organization’s ban on texting and driving."
Many State Laws already ban the use of cell phones while driving. Sample legislation to be used as a starting point for states crafting new laws to prohibit texting while driving has been encouraged.
Making the workplace safer is a major purpose of workers' compensation law. Public policy will certainly support the effort to end distracted driving. The trend to exclude coverage for distracted driving is a signifiant move in the right direction to help workers steer clear of accidents.

Your (case may be) Never Too Old

This week I have attended two hearings on behalf of clients that were injured on the job some time ago. In both cases neither client had a lawyer until they hired me. They came to see me because, as so often happens, they heard, through the grapevine, that they were not getting their just due under Connecticut Workers Compensation Law. One was injured in 2005 ad the other in 2009. I both cases, a careful interview of the client revealed that their suspicions were correct---they were both owed benefits that they had never been made aware of and never pursued.

The moral here is that it really is imperative that if you are hurt on the job, you consult an experieced Connecticut Workers Compensation Attorney. The laws are complex and the legal theories leading to recovery are many. Your old case may be found money and you owe it to yourself to get what you are entitled to.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Updates to SSD Hearing wait times

NOSSCR is reporting this month's wait times for an ALJ hearing at 330 days in hartford. that sounds about right.

The time Judges are taking to render their decisions seems to be considerably longer.

OSHA Fines in Lumber Co. fatality Case

PHENIX CITY, Ala. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited MDLG, doing business as Phenix Lumber Co., for 53 safety and health violations following the death of one worker and the critical injury of a second at its Phenix City facility. Proposed penalties total $439,400."Phenix Lumber failed to protect its workers from death and serious injury," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "Employers are legally bound to provide a safe work environment for their employees. This company has repeatedly failed to do so, costing one worker his life and grievously injuring another. This must stop." In March, OSHA inspectors opened a follow-up joint safety and health inspection to verify abatement from a previous visit that identified failure-to-abate violations. Before OSHA could conclude its review, one worker was killed when his head was crushed between a motor being hoisted with a forklift and other equipment. Another worker was seriously injured after he fell approximately 10 feet, breaking his neck, while doing daily maintenance on the debarker in the saw mill.In connection with the fatality, Phenix Lumber has been issued one willful and five serious safety and health citations for permitting a worker to stand under an elevated portion of a powered industrial truck allowing a crushing injury. In relation to the fall resulting in critical injury, the company has been issued one willful, one repeat and one serious safety citation for not providing guardrails and fall protection, and not having a means to disconnect a rotor motor.The follow-up inspection additionally resulted in the company being issued two failure-to-abate, 11 repeat, 21 serious and 10 other-than-serious safety and health citations for other violations. Those violations include failing to provide energy control procedures for equipment and machinery that require more than one lockout device, failing to provide proper electrical enclosures around live conductors and allowing ignitable or combustible dust to accumulate."Phenix Lumber has a history of saying it will correct its safety deficiencies, yet continues to allow a hazardous environment for its workers," said Cindy Coe, regional administrator for OSHA in Atlanta, Ga. "This horrendous situation cannot continue and will not be tolerated."The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by staff from OSHA's area office, 1141 Montlimar Drive, Suite 10006, Mobile, AL 36609; telephone 251-441-6131. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Reminder About Surveilance

From the Associated Press:

DOYLESTOWN, Pennsylvania — A woman is accused of illegally accepting workers' compensation payments while working as a stripper.
Forty-three-year-old Christina Gamble waived a preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday and will face trial next month.
Prosecutors say the woman claimed she hurt her back at her waitressing job and couldn't work. A judge granted her $360 per week in benefits in October 2008.
But private investigators working for the restaurant's insurance company say they taped her dancing at C.R. Fanny's Gentlemen's Club and Sports Bar later that year.
Gamble is charged with two counts of workers' compensation fraud and one count of theft.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

At Least 9 Die in Workplace Shooting

Having represented many employees of Hartford Distributors through the years, my heart goes out to the victims and their families.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Georgia Sugar Plant Explosion Results in $6 Million Fine

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced it has resolved litigation with Imperial Sugar Co. stemming from the February 2008 explosion at its Port Wentworth, Ga., plant and subsequently discovered safety and health violations at the company's Gramercy, La., facility."The 2008 explosion took the lives of 14 people and seriously injured dozens of others. Clearly, health and safety must become this company's top priority," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "This agreement requires Imperial Sugar to make extensive changes to its safety practices, and it underscores the importance of proactively addressing workplace safety and health hazards."In the agreement, submitted to Judge Covette Rooney of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, Imperial Sugar will pay $4,050,000 in penalties for the 124 violations found at its Port Wentworth plant after the explosion, plus an additional $2 million for the 97 violations found in March 2008 after an inspection of its only other facility, located in Gramercy. The citations alleged, among other safety and health hazards, that the company failed to properly address combustible dust hazards. As part of the settlement, Imperial Sugar agrees that it has corrected all deficiencies at both of its plants or will correct those deficiencies according to a set schedule. Preventative maintenance and housekeeping programs have been established, and Imperial Sugar will identify and map locations where combustible dust may be present at its plants. The company also will conduct regular internal safety inspections and employee training, and hire an independent expert at each plant to ensure that there are adequate avenues of communication on worker safety and health issues within the company. Furthermore, Imperial Sugar has hired and agrees to continue to employ a full-time certified safety professional for the Georgia plant. The company will retain outside consultants to conduct safety audits for a three-year period and evaluate Imperial's programs relating to managing combustible dust hazards, such as housekeeping, preventative maintenance and protective equipment for workers. OSHA will approve all safety, health and organizational experts retained by the company. OSHA will receive current and accurate injury logs whenever requested, and OSHA will be allowed to enter the facility and conduct inspections based on those logs without objection from the company. OSHA will regularly monitor progress and compliance with the agreement and continue to conduct regular inspections of the facility.Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Revised Stipulation Payment Memoradum

Reproduced in toto:

MEMORANDUM NO. 2010-02(Supersedes Memorandum No. 2007-02)
WCC Commissioners, District Administrators, Advisory Board, Legal Advisory Panel, Medical Advisory Panel, Medical Practitioners, Self-Insureds, Insurance Carriers, Attorneys, and Unions
John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
June 4, 2010
Revised Stipulation Procedure – Effective July 1, 2010
The following memorandum supersedes Memorandum No. 2007-02 dated April 2, 2007. The Commission has determined that the prior memorandum did not provide sufficient guidance as to the construction to be accorded the term “commence on or before” contained in § 31-303. For this reason, the Commission issues the following revision based on its reading of § 31-303.
Sec. 31-303 requires that payment “shall commence on or before the twentieth day” from the date of an award or agreement. In addition, “[a]n employer who fails to pay within the prescribed time limitations of this section shall pay a penalty for each late payment, in the amount of twenty per cent of such payment, in addition to any other interest or penalty imposed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.”
Determination of whether a penalty shall be assessed pursuant to § 31-303 due to the late payment of an award by stipulation shall be based upon the following:
Proof of payment by personal service, certified mail, or registered mail; OR
Placement of the payment due under an award by stipulation with a third party entity engaged in the regular business of delivery and the payor’s retention of written verification of same.
The 20-day period shall be counted from the date following the date on which the stipulation was approved by the Commissioner.
Parties in attendance will be hand-delivered the executed stipulation.
A certification page shall be maintained in the Commission’s file indicating the date on which the stipulation was approved and forwarded by the Commission’s staff.
Approved stipulations will be forwarded to non-appearing parties by regular mail to the address provided within the body of the stipulation by each party who requires and/or requests an executed copy.
For reference, § 31-303 provides:Payments agreed to under a voluntary agreement shall commence on or before the twentieth day from the date of agreement. Payments due under an award shall commence on or before the twentieth day from the date of such award. Payments due from the Second Injury Fund shall be payable on or before the twentieth business day after receipt of a fully executed agreement. Any employer who fails to pay within the prescribed time limitations of this section shall pay a penalty for each late payment, in the amount of twenty per cent of such payment, in addition to any other interest or penalty imposed pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hey Jim, Can You Loan me $1500 'til My Case Settles?

Brother, can you spare a dime? That's how the old saw goes, and not a month goes by without one of my clients calling, and they "hate to ask, but" look for a loanbfrom me against their comp settlement.

I feel bad for most of my clients. I truly do, and it is hard sometimes for me to say no. But I do.

I explain, as best as I can, that the Rules of Professional Responsibility prohibit me (thank goodness) from loaning my clients money. I always add the postscript that if I lose my license to practice law, I am of no use to them at all.

There are a number of firms out there now that will loan money against a WC settlement. In most cases, I try and steer my clients away from these outfits as I find heir rates usurious. But occasionally, suc a loan is a necessary evil.

I do my best to get to know my clients on a personal level. I like it that way. If I think they need the money, and understand the ramifications of these settlement loans, then after discussing it with the individual, Imake it happen. Most of the time it works.

No matter what, though, I can't loan you a dime (or $1500.00)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Amended Steel Erection standard improves highway construction worker safety

WASHINGTON - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has added a note to its Steel Erection standard informing employers of certain Federal Highway Administration requirements, to better protect workers and motorists during highway bridge construction.This added information will help prevent tragedies like the 2004 incident in which a 100-foot-long, 40-ton steel bridge girder fell from an overpass under construction in Golden, Colo., crushing an SUV passing underneath and killing the family of three inside. The falling girder could just as easily have struck and killed the construction workers who were building the bridge had they been there at the time; therefore, OSHA is amending its Steel Erection standard to notify employers of FHWA regulations that could save the lives of workers constructing highway bridges.In many cases, the FHWA requires that a Registered Engineer prepare plans for any temporary braces or supports used to stabilize structures such as bridges during highway construction. The National Transportation Safety Board determined the company erecting the bridge contributed to the fatal 2004 incident by failing to follow this requirement.Adding notification of FHWA requirements to the Steel Erection standard is considered a technical amendment because it does not impose any additional compliance burden on employers and therefore does not require a public comment period before going into effect. For additional information see the notice in the Federal Register.Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Updated Medical Guidelines take Effect July 1, 2010

June 1, 2010
The Connecticut Worker's Compensation Commission reports it has adopted new guidelines for resolving issues that may arise for either payors or medical providers who practice within the workers’ compensation system. The effective date for these guidelines is July 1, 2010.

To review the new guidelines, click here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Heat and bugs and workplace injury

Our recent spell of 90 degree plus weather may be a harbinger of things to come this Summer. As you head out to your jobs in the high heat and humidity, it is imperative you remember that if you become a victim of heat stroke or heat exhaustion while on the job, you may be eligible for benefits under the Conectiucut Workers Compensation Act. The same holds true for insect bites. Through the years I have represented a number of injured workers (and defended a few employers as well) that contracted Lyme Disease as a result of an insect or tick bite while at work.

If you fall ill due to a on the job condition, it is imperative you contact an experienced Connecticut Workers Compesation Attorey as soon as possible to protect your rights.

Safety Rules For Workers Involved in Top Kill

Talk about closing the barn door after the horses have left. OSHA has promulgated a web page setting forth their efforts in keeping the workers involved in oil spills safe from injury. Read all about it here.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

OSHA Proposes Rulemaking To Prevent Injuries From Slips, Trips And Falls

From Comp News Network

Washington, DC (CompNewsNetwork) - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced in a notice of proposed rulemaking published in today's Federal Register its plans to require improved worker protection from tripping, slipping and falling hazards on walking and working surfaces. A public hearing on the revised changes will be held after the public comment period for the NPRM."This proposal addresses workplace hazards that are a leading cause of work related injuries and deaths," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.The NPRM describes revisions to the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards to help prevent an estimated annual 20 workplace fatalities and more than 3,500 injuries serious enough to cause people to miss work. For example, in July 2009, a worker at a chocolate processing plant was killed after falling from an unguarded work platform."This is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored or inadequate," said Michaels. "The loss of a worker's life might have been prevented if the protective measures in these revised standards had been in place and in use."The current walking-working surfaces regulations allow employers to provide outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment such as lanyards and body belts that can result in workers suffering greater injury from falls. Construction and maritime workers already receive safer, more effective fall protection devices such as self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems, which these proposed revisions would also require for general industry workers.The current walking-working surfaces standards also do not allow OSHA to fine employers who let workers climb certain ladders without fall protection. Under the revised standards, this restriction would be lifted in virtually all industries, allowing OSHA inspectors to fine employers who jeopardize their workers' safety and lives by climbing these ladders without proper fall protection.Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

SSD Claimant's Have an Absolute Right to Refuse a Video Hearing

A March 20, 2010 memorandum from the Chief Administrative Law Judge to all of his subordinate ALJ's reiterates that a social security claimant has an absolute right to refuse to appear at a videotelephonic hearing (VTC) and demand a hearing before an ALJ in person. VTC hearings have become increasingly popular in districs where cases are backlogged for hearing. I have had instances where my client and I have been sitting in a hearing room in Hartford while the ALJ is sitting in Kansas City or some other distant city.

Pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations, the ALJ must be notified as soon as possible by the claimant that he or she is declining a VTC hearing. The hearing shall then be automatically continued for good cause having been found.

Nice to know that we can still insist on the personal touch.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I have to admit that this one is personal. I had a hand in defending the Cessario v Meriden matter at my former firm, and never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned the result the trial commissioner reached, let alone have it affirmed by the CRB. Officer Cessario retired from the Meriden PD in 1978 with a disability pension on account of his hypertension (high blood pressure). Remember well that hypertension in police officers and fire fighters was (and to a large degree still is) presumed to have been caused by the job, and thus compensable under Connecticut Workers Comp.

Cut to 2001. 23 years later! (No longer) officer Cessario has a heart attack which he is, for reasons unfathomable to me, able to relate back to the late 70s high blood presure. The trial commissioner chose to ignore the opionion of Dr. Jim Dougherty, one of the finer cardiologists in the State, who adroitly points out numerous other occupational factors that brought abought the heart attck and tag the City with the costs for current benefits, increased PPD, and all manner of other expensive goodies that will be passed on to the Meriden tax payers.

The CRB does not address the Citys defense that the claim for the 2001 heart attack was utimely. If you read the opinion, they just skate over that.

I hope the City appeals. They should. This decision is a killer for Connecticut municipaligties.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Repetitive Trauma Theory Carries the Day in Stress induced H&H Claim

A tip of the hat to my former partner, Jim Quinn, who taught me a lot about the ins and outs of Connecticut workers comp law. Jim successfully argued to the CRB that the trial commissioner erred in dismissing the claimants heart and hypertension claim without considering Jims theory that the stress was in fact a repeitive trauma for the purposes of tolling the statute of limitations. This is complicated stuff, folks. I would be happy to speak personally to any of you who need guidance in this area or who would like to know more about theories of repetitive trauma.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


This is the classiest thing my team has done in a long time.

Run Susan Run

And she is off. Judge Michael Sheldon ruled today in a 100 page opinion that Susan Bysewicz, who has spent a great portion of her time of late as Connecticuts Secretary of State, does in fact meet the statutory requirement of 10 years active practice as a lawyer.

I have held this view for some time. While most lay people equate lawyers with litigation, there are a vast number of dues paying lawyers in this State that never set foot in a court room. They work on contracts at the Aetna, or on real estate deals at the Phoenix, or in some other arcane area of the law that would drive me right around the bend. Nonetheless, they are every bit as entitled to refer to themselves as a lawyer as I am. It is no different with Susan B.

With all due respect to my friend Elliot Gersten for his blistering deposition interrogation skills, Judge Sheldon got this one right.

In other news, I really need to start entering these posts on a computer that has a working apostrophe and quotation mark key. If my English professors at Ohio Wesleyan were to read these, they would take away my degree.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Timeliness of Claim: Emotional Distress in case of Minor Employee Sexually Assualted by Boss at Work

I had a hard time thinking of a title for this entry, and I am still not entirely happy with what I came up with, but its hard to capsulize, let alone imagine a scenario where a 13 year old (underage for employment in Connecticut) girl begins to work for a landscape contractor who then goes on to have sexual relations with her. The landscaper is ultimately arrested on statutory rape charges and the young girl begins to experience emotional distress and requires psychiatric treatment.
Some 6 years after this unhappy situation arose, it dawned on the childs parents---yes the same parents that let their 13 year old go take a job---that maybe this should be covered under workers compensation. They file a claim, citing the medical treatment exception to the 1 year notice of claim proivision under CGS 31-294C. The parents, through their lawyer, reason that inasmuch as the employer had to reimburse the girl her out of pocket expenses for counseling as a condition of his criminal case, he had in fact paid for medical care thus triggering the exception establishing compensability in a late notice case. The CRB did not buy it.

I expect a appeal. I also think that the odds are better than 50/50 that at some point, one of the Appellate courts in Conecticut will get swept up in the child sex abuse statute of limitations fever and deem the claim compensable.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of filing a timely claim for benefits. Time and time again, it seems, I have to tell a prospective client that they will be unlikely to prevail in their claim for a on the job ijury for the simple reason they did not follow the requisite steps and file a 30C Notice of Claim. If you get hurt on the job, it is essential that you speak with a experieced Connecticut workers compensation lawyer as soon as possible.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Compensability of workplace brawl a question of fact

In Fekieta v. Drill Masters, Eldarado Tool, Inc., the CRB was called upon to review the Trial Commissioners decision that a workplace fight between two employees was not compensable. Generally speaking, Connecticut law holds that if you are injured as a result of a fight at work, then that is not causally related to the job itself and thus is not covered for the purposes of workers comp. In Fekieta, that facts were somewhat unique and an argument was made that the fight between the employees was engendered by one worker interfering with the other doing his job. Under certain conditions, I can see this argument carrying the day however in this case, the trial commissioner simply did not find the claimant credible. Not surprisingly, the CRB did not disturb the decision. Questions of credibility are solely within the province of the trier of fact.

Conn. Senate OKs cop workers' comp in animal cases

From The Associated Press tonight

The Associated Press Wednesday, April 28, 2010; 7:48 PM
HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Connecticut Senate has approved a bill allowing police officers to seek workers' compensation for stress after using deadly force on mammals.
The bill stems from the police killing of a 200-pound pet chimpanzee named Travis that went on a rampage in Stamford last year and mauled Charla Nash, a friend of the animal's owner.
Senators passed the measure 29-4 on Wednesday. It now awaits House action.
Stamford Police Officer Frank Chiafari (chee-uh-FAHR'-ee), who shot the animal, told lawmakers he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the harrowing experience but his claim for workers' compensation coverage was denied.
Under current state law, an officer can receive mental or emotional impairment benefits after using deadly force against a human being but not an animal.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

CRB reaffirms Totalityof Factors Test

In Cruz v. 21 Catherine Avenue, the CRB reaffirmed its position that in analyzing whether or not an injured worker is an employee for the purposes of Connecticut workers compensation law, requires the trial commissioner to look at the totallity of factors annexed to the worker and the principal. The Totality of factors test is set forth in Hanson v. Transportation General, Inc., 245 Conn. 613 (1998).

If you or a loved one are injured at work ad there is a question as to whether or not the victim is an employee, and thus eligible for workers compensation benefits, the safe course is to consult and experienced, board certified Hartford workers compensation lawyer.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Massive Natural Gas Exolosion Kills 5 and Injures More in Middletown

In what will likely prove to be Connecticut's largest single worker's compensation incident in years, the Associated Press is reporting that at least 5 workers were killed today and 12 more were injured when a Kleen Energy plant they were constructing in Middletown, Connecticut erupted in a natural gas fueled fireball. The photos I have scene from the scene depict the building ---which was under consruction but reportedly 95% complete--- with both of its' sides blown out. Homes across the Connecticut River in Portland suffered cracks in their walls and buckled doors as testimony to the force of the explosion.

In a case such as this, I am certain the members of the Connecticut Worker's Compensation bar will rally together to aid in bringing justice to the families of those killed and care to those who have been injured. Our prayers go out to all involved.

Friday, February 5, 2010

CGS 31-312 Mileage Rate Falls as of January 2010

Effective January 1, 2010, the mileage reimbursement rate for Connecticut Worker's Compensation Claim related travel fell to 50 cents per mile regardless of the date of injury.

The notation on the Connecticut WCC website may be read by clicking here.

Expert's Testimony Leads to New trial in Connecticut Medical Malpractice Case.

(AC 29314 was officially released by the Connecticut Appellate Court on January 19th, 2010. In this medical malpractice case brought against a respected Fairfield County orthopedic surgeon, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant, David Kramer, MD. That is to say that the Plaintiff--the one who sued---lost their case and recovered no money for the doctor's alleged malpractice.

At trial, the Defendant presented testimony from an expert witness, Todd Albert, MD, who testified that Dr Kramer had not deviated from the requisite standard of care. Doctor Albert went on, however, to opine that in not ordering certain additional tests, Dr. Kramer was on solid footing:

"I am with residents, fellows,
and medical students all the time. So, we are
ordering a lot of tests on everything so they have the
opportunity to read them. And you could say, oh, that’s
wasteful, but that is part of being at a teaching institution.
One. It is for teaching purposes as much as anything,
for they have one more chance to look at just
one more—they have another dot in their exposure.
‘‘The second reason is much different than in this
part of the country and this state. I live in the worst
malpractice community in the world. And people—and
we practice a lot of defensive medicine. It’s true. It’s
unfortunate, but it’s true. And so we order way more
tests. You hear about the cost of medicine going up.
Weare the epicenter of it because we have more doctors
leaving because they can’t get insurance and things like
that. So, we order way more tests than are necessary
to protect ourselves. And that’s just a fact. And so we
get acclimated to practicing like that."

At that point, the Plaintiff's lawyer moved for a mistrial based upon Dr. Albert's prejudicial remarks. The trial court refused to do that and the Plaintiff, after losing the case, took an appeal.

The Appellate Court ruled that Dr. Albert's remarks as cited above were in fact unduly prejusicial and ordered a new trial.

The entire text of the Court's opinion can be read here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kevin Maher Passes

Long time Connecticut Worker's Compensation attorney Kevin Maher pased away Monday, January 11, 2010. Kevin was one of the founding principals of Maher and Williams in Fairfield. He was beloved by all of us who toil in the field of worker's compensation law, whether we agreed with the stance he took or not in any given case. Kevin was one of the classic lawyers on the Connecticut scene. He will be missed.

Kevin's obituary may be read here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Voronuk vs. Electric Boat: Contributing Factor must be "Substantial"

The Connecticut Appellate Court released it's decison on December 1, 2009 in the case of MARJORIE VORONUK v. ELECTRIC BOAT
. Voronuk concerns a claim for survivor's benefits under section 31-306 of the Connecticut Worker's Compensation Act.

According to the decision, Joseph Voronuk, the plaintiff’s late husband, who died in 1995,
testified by deposition on November 14, 1989, that he
first worked for the defendant in 1942 as a shipfitter
for approximately six months to one year and that during
that period he was exposed to asbestos while on
the job. He and the plaintiff were married in 1947 and
remained married and living together until his death.
He resumed employment with the defendant in 1951
as a carpenter. He testified that in the course of his
employment as a carpenter for the defendant he was
exposed to asbestos. He testified that in 1982, due to
complaints of chest pain, he was examined by Paul
Gerity, a physician. Gerity’s notes of the examination
reveal that the decedent was fearful that his prolonged
exposure to asbestos on the job made him susceptible
to asbestosis. The decedent’s medical records show
that from October, 1982, through April, 1986, he was
treated by Gerity and William G. Crawford, another
physician, for, among other things, complaints of chest
pain. The decedent also testified that in 1985, at the
defendant’s request, he had a medical screening for
asbestosis performed by personnel at Boston University
Medical Center. It was as a result of this medical screening
that he first learned of his diagnosis of asbestosis.
On March 17, 1986, he filed with the commissioner a
form 30-C, claiming that his lung disease was a result
of workplace exposure to lung irritants. The decedent
retired from the defendant’s employ in 1986.
The decedent thereafter continued to monitor and
to treat his lung condition, although it worsened. In
September, 1993, he was hospitalized and diagnosed
with congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, asbestosis
and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was
again hospitalized in July and November, 1994, due to
complications resulting from congestive heart failure,
pleural effusions, cardiomegaly, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, hypoxia and asbestosis. He died
on October 13, 1995. His death certificate listed the
immediate cause of death as cardiorespiratory arrest
due to cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure.
It also listed diabetes mellitus as another condition
contributing to death but not related to cause.

1996, Mark R. Cullen, a physician, reviewed the decedent’s
medical records and prepared a report that the
plaintiff submitted to the commissioner. Cullen’s report
initially set out the basis for the opinions contained
therein and concluded: ‘‘Putting all the above information
into context, it would bemy opinion that underlying
restrictive lung disease was a contributory factor in the
development of cardiorespiratory failure which ultimately
caused [the decedent’s] demise in 1995. Since
his interstitial lung disease was due to asbestosis, I
would consider his work exposure contributory to his
death.’’ This report, along with the death certificate, was
the only evidence the plaintiff submitted concerning
the cause of the decedent’s death.

The Trial Commissioner, after hearing all of the evidence, concluded that because no expert medical opinion was profferred by the widow that Mr. Voronuk's past exposure to asbestos in his work at E.B. was a "substantial contributing factor, " she had not met her burden of proof with regards to establishing compensibility. The Compensation Review Board affirmed the trial commissioner, and now the Appellate Court has concluded likewise.

The Court goes out of its' way to state that it does not consider the expression "substantial contributing factor" to be a magic phrase, per se, however that conclusion is hard to escape.

The take away message is that when in doubt, the wise claimant's attorney should ask doctor for clarification of any ambiguous opinions. Schedule an hour of the doctor's time and explain to him or her what it is that is needed. Have an honest discussion about the medical legal implications of the doctor's opinions. With Voronuk on the books, we have been forewarned.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Worker's Comp Mileage reimbursement Rate Falls

From the Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission Website:

The mileage reimbursement rate for all travel expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2010 is now 50.0 cents per mile. This rate change applies to all claimants, regardless of injury date, and coincides with the federal mileage reimbursement rate pursuant to Section 31-312(a) of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Independent Contractor: A "Thing Thant Makes Me Go Hmmm."

The distinction between who is an independent contractor and who is an employee in the realm of Connecticut Workers Compensation law is one of those issues that continues to gnaw at me. And, I think, it may be gnawing at the Compensation Review Board as well. In Jordan v. Reindeau & Sons Logging, LLC the CRB took up an appeal in which the trial commissioner concluded the lumberjack that was injured while on the job was an independent contractor as opposed to an employee of the logging company and thus not able to recover for injuries sustained while working.

In reading the CRB's opinion, it is pretty clear that the trial commissioner could have gone either way on this one. I also get the sense the CRB wrestled with what to do. In the end, The CRB deferred and upheld the commissioner's decision. Now I can't say for sure whether or not the trial commissioner concluded as he or she did because of the facts or because the claimant was not represented by one of the more well known comp attorneys while the respondents were, but I think it is a fair question to ponder. There are a lot of intangibles that go into Connecticut workers compensation law practice and this is one of those scenarios that makes me go "hmmmm."

If you are injured on the job in Connecticut and would like a free consultation, feel free to contact my office.