State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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Flowers v. Benny’s of Connecticut

CASE NO. 1527 CRB-2-92-10

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

APRIL 26, 1994

MARGARET FLOWERS

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

BENNY’S OF CONNECTICUT

EMPLOYER

and

LIBERTY MUTUAL INS. CO.

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Mark W. Oberlatz, Esq., O’Brien, Shafner, Stuart, Kelly & Morris, P.C., P.O. Drawer 929, Groton, CT 06340.

The respondents were represented by Jonathan F. Reik, Esq. and Robert D. McGann, Esq., McGann, Bartlett & Brown, 281 Hartford Turnpike, Suite 401, Vernon, CT 06066.

This Petition for Review from the October 2, 1992 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner for the Second District was heard September 10, 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 claimant has petitioned for review from the Second District Commissioner’s October 2, 1992 Finding and Dismissal. The trial commissioner found that the claimant did not suffer a mental stress injury that arose out of and in the course of her employment with the respondent-employer. On appeal, the claimant argues that the trial commissioner improperly (1) admitted certain testimony, (2) denied her motion to correct and (3) dismissed the claim for compensation benefits. We affirm the trial commissioner.

The claimant contends that she suffered a mental stress injury as a result of sexual harassment and verbal abuse by a male supervisor, Edward Bouchard. She testified that beginning in March 1986, Bouchard made sexual advances toward her. She testified that after she repelled his advances, Bouchard started to criticize her unjustifiably and to belittle her in front of co-workers. As a result of this conduct, according to the claimant, she was forced to leave work at the respondent-employer and seek psychiatric care and has suffered a diminution in wages.

Bouchard denied harassing the claimant sexually or otherwise. He testified that he and the claimant had a friendly professional and personal relationship until July, 1986, when the claimant’s attitude seemed to change and she became sarcastic and hostile and her job performance dropped.

A number of employees of the respondent-employer testified regarding the work place behavior of Bouchard and the claimant. Some witnesses testified that Bouchard criticized the claimant and made sexually-inappropriate contact with her. Other employees, however, testified that they never saw Bouchard make sexual advances toward any female employee. These witnesses also testified that it was the claimant who made sexually explicit and inviting comments and actions in the workplace toward Bouchard, toward her co-workers and toward customers.

The claimant’s treating psychiatrist testified that he believed that the claimant was suffering from major depressive reaction and from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by sexual harassment from Bouchard. The psychiatrist who examined the claimant on behalf of the respondents testified that he believed that the claimant suffered from an anxiety depression but that she was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It was his opinion that the claimant did not suffer any psychiatric injury as a result of her employment with the respondent-employer.

The trial commissioner noted the conflicting testimony. He determined that the most credible testimony cast grave doubts on the testimony of the claimant. Thus, he found that, while the claimant may be suffering emotional problems, she had failed to meet her burden of proving that she suffered a mental stress injury arising out of and in the course of her employment. The commissioner therefore dismissed the claim for compensation benefits. This appeal followed.

The claimant first contends that the commissioner improperly admitted certain testimony of two witnesses. The disputed evidence concerned testimony regarding the claimant’s conduct in the workplace. The witnesses testified to the claimant’s sexually-oriented comments toward fellow employees and customers during a time period before and during that in which the claimant alleges sexual harassment toward her. Relying on State v. Mastropetre, 175 Conn. 512 (1978), the claimant argues that this evidence was irrelevant.

We need not resolve whether this evidence was relevant to the issues before the trial commissioner. While irrelevant testimony before a jury may have a tendency to distract attention from the real issues; see State v. Mastropetre, supra, 517; the same is not true in a trial to a court. In a trial to a court, as opposed to a trial to a jury, the admission and use of irrelevant evidence is generally harmless simply because it is not relevant to the basic issues. See Bird Electron Beam Corporation v. Gamage, 11 Conn. App. 67, 74 (1987). Accordingly, the claimant’s evidentiary claims will not be the basis of appellate reversal.

The claimant next argues that the commissioner should have granted her motion to correct. The requested corrections which the claimant presses on appeal pertain to the testimony of one witness, June Nunes, and the commissioner’s findings in paragraphs 27 and 28 of his Finding and Dismissal. Because we do not believe that the proposed corrections would alter the commissioner’s legal conclusion, the claimant’s challenge to the denial of her motion to correct must fail. Hill v. Pitney Bowes Inc., 8 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 98, 832 CRD-7-89-3 (1990).

In her final challenge to the commissioner’s denial of her claim, the claimant essentially asks us to retry the facts. This we cannot do. Administrative Regulation Sec. 31-301-8. The conclusion reached below was dependent on the weight and credibility accorded the evidence. We will not disturb conclusions which are so based. Neal v. UTC/Pratt and Whitney, 10 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 163, 1199 CRD-8-91-3 (1992). It was therefore within the province of the trial commissioner to resolve inconsistencies or contradictions in the evidence. Miller v. Kirshner, 225 Conn. 185, 198-99 (1993); Fair v. People’s Savings Bank, 207 Conn. 535, 538-42 (1988). As the conclusions reached from the facts found did not result from incorrect applications of law or from inferences illegally or unreasonably drawn from those facts, those conclusions must stand. Fair v. People’s Savings Bank, supra, 539.

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

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

Workers’ Compensation Commission

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State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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