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Gray v. State of Connecticut/Fairfield Hills Hospital

CASE NO. 1476 CRB-4-92-8

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

JUNE 7, 1994

OLLIE GRAY III

CLAIMANT-APPELLEE

v.

STATE OF CONNECTICUT/FAIRFIELD HILLS HOSPITAL

EMPLOYER

RESPONDENT-APPELLANT

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by John R. Palumbo, Esq., Palumbo, Palumbo & Carrington, P.C., P.O. Box 2518, 193 Grand Street, Waterbury, CT 06723.

The respondent was represented by Ernie R. Walker, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, P.O. Box 120, 55 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06141-0120.

This Petition for Review from the July 30, 1992 Finding and Award of the Commissioner for the Fourth District was heard October 29, 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-employer, State of Connecticut Fairfield Hills Hospital, appeals from the decision of the Commissioner for the Fourth District awarding the claimant benefits pursuant to the General Statutes Sec. 5-142(a), as amended by Section 40 of the Public Act No. 91-339.1 The sole issue is whether the trial commissioner properly concluded that the claimant’s injury was compensable under that provision. We affirm the trial commissioner.

The parties stipulated to the following facts. On October 8, 1991, the claimant was employed as a rehabilitation therapist with the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and was assigned to work with patients at Fairfield Hills Hospital in Newtown. At such time and place, the claimant was injured while working with a mentally retarded patient who had fallen down. The claimant’s injury occurred while he was attempting to break the patient’s fall and/or lift the patient off the floor. The patient is a person afflicted with a mental disorder or disease and, as such, lacks the gross motor skills of a woman of her age.2 The patient, however, is not a violent person, and the claimant’s life was never in danger at any point in time.

The parties further stipulated (1) that, at all times relevant to this claim, the claimant was a member of “any institution or facility of the department of mental health giving care and treatment to persons afflicted with any mental defect” and (2) that the claimant “sustained an injury while attending or restraining an inmate of . . . such institution.” Having met the first two conditions of coverage under Sec. 5-142(a) as amended by Section 40 of Public Act 91-339; see Stuart v. Department of Correction, 221 Conn. 41, 42 n.1 (1992); the issue before the trial commissioner was whether the claimant met the third requirement in order for a claimant to receive benefits pursuant to Sec. 5-142(a), namely, whether the injury was “a direct result of the special hazards inherent in such duties.” We now address this issue.

In Lucarelli v. State, 16 Conn. App. 65 (1988), the Appellate Court concluded that to secure full pay benefits under Sec. 5-142(a) prior to the 1991 amendments, the claimant correctional guard need only show that his injury was sustained “in the performance of guard duties.” Although the court recognized that certain duties set forth in the statute, such as “making an arrest,” involve duties of a dangerous or hazardous nature, it held that the injury need not result from any particular hazard of the job. Id., 69-70. Thus, a correctional guard who was injured when his chair collapsed while he was performing guard duties was found to qualify for benefits under Sec. 5-142. Id.

In 1991, the legislature sought to remedy a perceived loophole in Sec. 5-142(a) through Section 40 of Public Act 91-339. Although it limited Sec. 5-142 awards to injuries which are a direct result of the special hazards inherent in the employee’s job duties, no definition of the Sec. 5-142(a)(2) requirements of “special hazards inherent in such duties” was supplied in the legislation. To discern the definition of the “special hazards” requirement of Sec. 5-142(a)(2), we must look to the interplay between Sec. 5-142(a)(1) and Sec. 5-142(a)(2) in light of the Lucarelli decision.

In Lucarelli, the Appellate Court noted that “[t]he classifications of state employees enumerated in [Sec. 5-142] share a common characteristic: these employees, in the daily course of performing their duties, work in an atmosphere sometimes charged with emotion and stress, and face the possibility of confrontations with inmates, patients or arrestees, which confrontations often result in violence.” Id., 69. It is clear that an enumerated employee who is injured “as a result of being assaulted in the performance of his duty,” as required by Sec. 5-142(a)(1) would thereby qualify under the special hazards requirements of Sec. 5-142(a)(2). Similarly, the Lucarelli court noted that the duty of “making an arrest” is one of a “dangerous” and “hazardous” nature. Id., 70. Thus, an enumerated employee injured while making an arrest would meet the requirements of Sec. 5-142(a)(2) by qualifying under Sec. 5-142(a)(1).

We now focus on the “attending or restraining an inmate” language of Sec. 5-142(a)(1) which is critical to the resolution of this case. “Restraining” implies a restriction on a person’s freedom of action, often by physical force. American Heritage Dictionary (2nd Coll. Ed.), p. 1054. Thus, the “restraining” language of Sec. 5-142(a)(1), like the arrest and assault language of the same provision, involves a situation where the possibility of confrontation is heighted and the hazardous nature is obvious. Injuries occurring when an enumerated employee is restraining a patient are therefore injuries which occur as a direct result of special hazards inherent in the work, no less than those which occur while the employee is making an arrest or when the employee is assaulted.

Injuries which occur while an employee is “attending” a state inmate, however, like those occurring in the “actual performance” of police on guard duties, are not necessarily hazardous. See Lucarelli v. State, supra. In such situations, injuries due to the “ordinary” hazards of the employee’s job duties will not qualify under Sec. 5-142(a). See 34 H. Proc., Pt 24, 1991 Sess., pp. 9068-69, remarks of Representative Joseph Adamo (back injury to hospital worker caused by simple lifting of patients not within Sec. 5-142(a)(2)). Under such circumstances, then, additional facts are necessary to establish whether the injury was caused by a risk peculiar to and obviously associated with the claimant’s duties. Such risks will generally arise either from the specific job duties assigned to the state employee or from the characteristics of the person(s) with whom the state employee works.

In this case, the commissioner’s critical finding, based on the stipulation of the parties, includes the necessary finding that the injury occurred while the claimant was “restraining” the patient. As the conclusion reached from the facts found did not result from an incorrect application of the law or from inferences illegally or unreasonably drawn from those facts, the commissioner’s conclusion must stand. Fair v. People’s Savings Bank, 207 Conn. 535, 539 (1988).

We, therefore, affirm the trial commissioner and deny the appeal.

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

1 General Statutes Sec. 5-142(a) as amended by Section 40 of Public Act No. 91-339 provides that the state shall pay full salary benefits “[i]f any member of the division of state police within the department of public safety or any correctional institution, or any institution or facility of the department of mental health giving care and treatment to persons afflicted with a mental disorder or disease, or any institution for the care and treatment of persons afflicted with any mental defect, or [any other enumerated state employee who performs public safety functions] . . . sustains an injury (1) while making an arrest or in the actual performance of such police duties or guard duties or fire duties . . . or while attending or restraining an inmate of any such institution or as a result of being assaulted in the performance of his duty and (2) that is a direct result of the special hazards inherent in such duties . . . .” (Emphasis added.)

Section 40 of Public Act 91-339 also amended Sec. 5-142(a) to provide that certain other specified state employees who sustain an injury in the course of their employment will receive full salary benefits in a more limited set of circumstances, that is, only where “such injury is sustained as a result of being assaulted in the performance of his duty.” BACK TO TEXT

2 In response to the respondent-employer’s motion to correct, the trial commissioner added the following finding: “Claimant did not provide any evidence to show that the reason the patient . . . fell was due to her lack of motor skills or due to her mental impairment.” BACK TO TEXT

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