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Cote v. Pratt & Whitney Aerospace Co.

CASE NO. 1636 CRB-2-93-2

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

APRIL 17, 1995

CHESTER COTE

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

PRATT & WHITNEY AEROSPACE CO.

EMPLOYER

RESPONDENT-APPELLEE

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by A. Patrick Alcarez, Esq., Regnier, Taylor, Curran & Eddy, CityPlace, Hartford, CT 06103-3402.

The respondent was represented by Robert M. Brennan, Esq., Rosenbaum & Brennan, 639 Research Parkway, Meriden, CT 06450.

This Petition for Review from the January 27, 1993 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Second District was heard February 25, 1994 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners Nancy A. Brouillet and Michael S. Miles.

OPINION

JESSE M. FRANKL, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review from the January 27, 1993 Finding and Award of the Commissioner for the Second District. There is no dispute as to the facts of this case. The claimant suffered a compensable injury to his lower back on February 1, 1976, while in the employment of the respondent. He reinjured his back on April 8, 1987, while working for a different employer. During the 88 weeks of total disability that followed the reinjury, the respondent paid the claimant benefits at the maximum 1976 rate of $126.00 per week plus the applicable cost of living increases. The claimant, however, sought benefits at a weekly rate reflective of his 1987 earnings. The commissioner found that because the claimant was not an employee of the respondent at the time of the reinjury, there was no employment relationship between the two parties and thus § 31-307b C.G.S. did not apply. The claimant has appealed that decision, and we agree that it should be reversed.

The rights of the parties in this matter are governed by the version of § 31-307b in force at the time of the claimant’s injury. Iacomacci v. Trumbull, 209 Conn. 219, 222 (1988). At that time, the statute provided in relevant part:

If any employee who receives benefits under section 31-307 returns to work after recovery from his injury and subsequently suffers total or partial incapacity caused by a relapse from the recovery from, or a recurrence of, such injury, such employee shall be paid a weekly compensation equal to sixty-six and two-thirds per cent of his average weekly earnings at the time of the original injury or at the time of his relapse or at the time of the recurrence of such injury, whichever is the greater sum, subject to the maximum rate of compensation set pursuant to section 31-309 for the year in which such employee suffered the relapse or recurrent injury . . . . Such employee shall also be entitled to receive the cost-of-living adjustment provided in accordance with the provisions of section 31-307a, commencing on October first following the relapse or recurrent injury which disables him.

Further, the relevant language of § 31-309 at that time stated that “the weekly compensation received by an injured employee whose injury occurred before October 1, 1979, shall be computed according to the provisions of law in effect at the time of his injury.”

Although the issue in this case is one of first impression, the language of the statutes provides clear guidance to this Board. There is no requirement in § 31-307b that an employee continue to work for the same employer in order for the statute to apply, and we decline to read one into the statute. A subsequent change in employment status does not relieve an employer of the duty to provide workers’ compensation benefits to a disabled employee whose injury arose out of and in the course of his or her employment with that employer. None of the other statutes in the workers’ compensation act make that type of restriction, and we do not find any language in § 31-307b that would suggest it was intended here.

The respondent is correct, however, in asserting that the claimant is not entitled to benefits at his 1987 wage rate. The version of § 31-309 quoted above expressly states that an employee whose injury occurred before October 1, 1979 shall be compensated according to the law in effect at the time of injury. As the claimant was originally injured in 1976, he is thus entitled to the 1976 maximum compensation rate of two-thirds of the average production wage, which was then the maximum weekly compensation allowed under § 31-309. Section 31-307b also entitles him to cost of living adjustments.

The commissioner is reversed and the case is remanded to the Second District for entry of an order consistent with this opinion.

Commissioners Nancy A. Brouillet and Michael S. Miles concur.

Workers’ Compensation Commission

Page last revised: January 21, 2005

Page URL: http://wcc.state.ct.us/crb/1995/1636crb.htm

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