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Zaleta v. Town of Fairfield

CASE NO. 1453 CRB-4-92-7

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

FEBRUARY 28, 1994

GARY ZALETA

CLAIMANT-APPELLEE

v.

TOWN OF FAIRFIELD

EMPLOYER

SELF-INSURED

RESPONDENT

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Vincent M. Zanella, Jr., Esq., Zanella, Gilardi & Boath, 1129 Essex Place, P.O. Box 9708, Stratford, CT 06497.

The respondent was represented by Donal C. Collimore, Esq., Assistant Town Attorney, 1238 Post Road, P.O. Box 278, Fairfield, CT 06430.

This Petition for Review from the July 9, 1992 Finding and Award of the Commissioner for the Fourth District was heard May 21, 1993 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse Frankl and Commissioners George A. Waldron and Donald H. Doyle, Jr.

OPINION

JESSE FRANKL, CHAIRMAN. The respondent’s appeal challenges the trial commissioner’s determination that the claimant satisfied the timely notice of claim requirement of General Statutes (Rev. to 1987) Sec. 31-294. Specifically, the respondent contends that the trial commissioner improperly found hypertension to be an occupational disease governed by a three year limitation period for filing a claim for compensation. We affirm the trial commissioner.

The relevant facts are not in dispute. The claimant has been a regular member of the paid municipal fire department of the respondent-employer. The claimant seeks benefits pursuant to General Statutes Sec. 7-433c and has met its requirements namely, that his pre-employment physical exam revealed no evidence of hypertension or heart disease; that he developed a condition or impairment of health caused by hypertension; that his condition or impairment resulted in temporary or partial disability; and that economic loss resulted therefrom. The claimant requested informal hearings and received assignments for hearings within three years, but not within one year, of the date of diagnosis of his hypertension.

Based on the foregoing facts, the trial commissioner found that “hypertension is an occupational disease and thus governed by the three year statute for filing that type of claim.” Finding and Award, paragraph 14D. The commissioner further found that the claimant filed a timely request for a hearing within three years from the date of diagnosis of hypertension and, pursuant to Sec. 31-294(b), satisfied the timely notice of claim requirement. Accordingly, the trial commissioner awarded benefits pursuant to Sec. 7-433c. This appeal followed.

The respondent contends that the trial commissioner’s finding that hypertension is an occupational disease cannot stand because no evidence was presented that hypertension is an occupational disease. The respondent argues that the one year limitation period, rather than the three year limitation period, applies to this Sec. 7-433c claim in the absence of such evidence. We do not agree.

“Although Sec. 7-433c does not provide any limitations period for filing claims, we have held that the provisions of Title 31, Sec. 31-294 governs. See e.g. Janco v. Fairfield, 39 Conn. Sup. 403 (1983); Deck v. Groton, 8 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 1, 745 CRD-2-88-6 (1989). We have also held that hypertension is an occupational disease and thus governed by the three year statute for filing that type of claim.” (Emphasis added.) Murach v. City of New Britain, 10 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 89, 91, 1172 CRD-6-91-2 (1992).

An occupational disease is “any disease peculiar to the occupation in which the employee was engaged and due to causes in excess of the ordinary hazards of employment as such . . . .” General Statutes (Rev. to 1987) Sec. 31-275 (11) [now Sec. 31-275 (15)]. Ordinarily, some evidentiary support is necessary to satisfy the requirement that the disease be “peculiar to the occupation” and “in excess of the ordinary hazards of employment.” Such evidence must show that “there is a causal connection between the duties of the employment and the disease contracted by the employee. In other words, [the disease] need not be unique to the occupation of the employee or to the work place; it need merely be so distinctively associated with the employee’s occupation that there is a direct causal connection between the duties of the employment and the disease contracted.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Crochiere v. Board of Education, 227 Conn. 333, 352 (1993); Hansen v. Gordon, 221 Conn. 29, 35 (1992). We do not believe such evidence is necessary, however, with respect to a Sec. 7-433c hypertension claim.

Section 7-433c itself recognizes, legislatively, the direct causal connection between hypertension and the duties of employment as a police officer or a firefighter. Section 7-433c specifically recognizes “the peculiar problems of uniformed members of paid fire departments and regular members of paid police departments, and . . . the unusual risks attendant upon these occupations, including an unusually high degree of susceptibility to heart disease and hypertension . . . .” (Emphasis added.) General Statutes Sec. 7-433c. Thus, it is apparent that the legislature has determined, without the necessity of further evidentiary support in the record, that hypertension is so distinctively associated with the occupations of police officer and firefighter that there is a direct causal connection between the occupational duties and hypertension sufficient to qualify hypertension as an occupational disease for purposes of a claim under Sec. 7-433c.

We, therefore, conclude that the trial commissioner properly found that hypertension is an occupational disease and correctly applied the three year statute for filing that type of claim. Accordingly, we affirm the trial commissioner and deny the appeal.

Additionally, pursuant to Sec. 31-301c(b), we grant interest at the rate permitted by statute on any amount remaining unpaid during the pendency of the appeal.

Commissioners George A. Waldron and Donald H. Doyle, Jr. concur.

Workers’ Compensation Commission

Page last revised: November 12, 2015

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