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Crouch v. Hayner Hoyt Corporation

CASE NO. 1824 CRB-1-93-8

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

JUNE 20, 1995

DANIEL J. CROUCH

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

HAYNER HOYT CORPORATION

EMPLOYER

and

MARYLAND CASUALTY COMPANY

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Scott W. Williams, Esq., Maher & Williams, 1300 Post Road, P. O. Box 550, Fairfield, CT 06430-0550.

The respondents were represented by Jason M. Dodge, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, 95 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury, CT 06033-4412.

This Petition for Review from the August 6, 1993 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the First District was heard August 26, 1994 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners Angelo L. dos Santos and Nancy A. Brouillet.

OPINION

ANGELO L. dos SANTOS, COMMISSIONER. The claimant has petitioned for review from the August 6, 1993 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner for the First District. He argues on appeal that the commissioner incorrectly determined that the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission lacked jurisdiction over the claimant’s injury. We reverse the trial commissioner’s decision.

The facts of this case are not in dispute. The claimant injured his left shoulder on March 16, 1987 at a job site in West Hartford in the course of his employment with the respondent employer. The claimant was domiciled in New York at the time of the injury, and the respondent is a Syracuse, New York corporation that did not have an office in Connecticut on the date in question. The claimant was hired in New York and performed the majority of his job services there, although his duties also required him to travel throughout the northeastern United States.

During this particular project, the claimant was in Connecticut only one day before he injured his shoulder. Although he visited a Connecticut walk-in medical clinic immediately after the injury, the claimant returned to New York the next day and neither worked nor sought further treatment in Connecticut after the date of his injury. The claimant was paid workers’ compensation benefits under New York law. The commissioner found that these facts did not support the jurisdiction of our Workers’ Compensation Commission, reasoning that the “[c]laimant’s work injury in Connecticut, with nothing more, is insufficient under an interest analysis theory to establish legitimate and substantial interests whereby Connecticut workers’ compensation jurisdiction can be invoked.” The claimant appealed from that decision.

The claimant argues here that the commissioner failed to apply the correct law in light of the principles set forth in Cleveland v. U.S. Printing Ink, Inc., 218 Conn. 181 (1991).1 There, in a case substantially similar to this one, our Supreme Court determined that “[t]he remedial purpose of our Workers’ Compensation Act supports application of its provisions in cases where an injured employee seeks an award of benefits and Connecticut is the place of injury, the place of the employment contract or the place of the employment relation.” Id., 195. Having been injured in Connecticut, the claimant in Cleveland was allowed to file a claim for benefits here even though both he and his employer were based in New Jersey, he had not sought medical treatment in Connecticut, and he had already received workers’ compensation benefits under the New Jersey act.

Three of the seven justices on the Cleveland panel dissented, stating that the majority opinion implicitly overruled Simaitis v. Flood, 182 Conn. 24, 29-30 (1980), by abandoning “the most significant relationship criterion for resolving a conflict of laws in workers’ compensation cases and substitut[ing] a rule allowing a claimant to maximize his benefits to the extent permitted by any forum that may have jurisdiction.” Cleveland, supra, 197 (Shea, J., dissenting). The reasoning behind this dissent was adopted by our legislature in Public Act 93-228 § 1(9), which amended the definition of “employee” in § 31-275 to exclude “[a]ny person who is not a resident of this state but is injured in this state during the course of his employment, unless such person (I) works for an employer who has a place of employment or a business facility located in this state at which such person spends at least fifty per cent of his employment time, or (II) works for an employer pursuant to an employment contract to be performed primarily in this state.” The respondents argue that the commissioner’s dismissal of the claimant’s claim was proper because this amendment applies to the facts of this case.

The claimant was injured on March 16, 1987. We must adhere to that date in determining the rights and obligations of the parties. Thus, only those statutes in effect on March 16, 1987 are applicable to this case. See Kluttz v. Howard, 228 Conn. 401, 404 n. 3 (1994). The respondent argues, however, that the 1993 amendment of § 31-275 was intended to apply retroactively, despite the presumption in our law that, in enacting a statute, the legislature intends a change in existing law rather than a clarification of prior law. See Kluttz, supra, 409, citing Shelton v. Commissioner of Environmental Protection, 193 Conn. 506, 513-14 (1984). This argument was expressly rejected in Kluttz, where our Supreme Court held that the legislature’s amendment of the definition of “employee” and the legislative history surrounding that amendment were insufficient to rebut the usual presumption by demonstrating a clear intent to clarify rather than change the law. Id., 409. The holding in Kluttz thus constrains this Board from applying the 1993 amendment to this case.

In the absence of the amendment to § 31-275, Cleveland, supra, provides the controlling precedent in this case. The commissioner should have applied the conflict of laws rule adopted in Cleveland, which expressly made the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act applicable to situations where Connecticut is the place of injury as well as the place of the employment contract or employment relation. Because there is no dispute that the claimant was injured arising out of and in the course of his employment at a job site in Connecticut, the commissioner improperly ruled that the claimant’s claim must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The trial commissioner is reversed, and the case is remanded to the First District for further proceedings.

Commissioner Nancy A. Brouillet concurs.

JESSE M. FRANKL, CHAIRMAN, Concurring. My thoughts on the choice of law rules promulgated in the Cleveland, supra decision were noted in my comments during the legislative proceedings at the time of the legislature’s consideration of Public Act 93-228. In fact some of my comments were quoted in Kluttz v. Howard, 228 Conn. 401, 407-409, 411 (1994). As the Supreme Court noted in Kluttz, supra, the enactment of Public Act 93-228 amending § 31-275 was passed in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Cleveland, supra. Clearly, the legislature understood the costs and inequities of permitting employees with no significant contacts with this state to collect under our Workers’ Compensation Act and changed the law accordingly. However, the legislature’s remedy arrived too late at least insofar as this employer, and the Second Injury Fund in the Kluttz matter, are concerned. Troubling as this may be, we are bound by the principles of stare decisis and where as here, our Supreme Court has specifically refused to revisit and reconsider its decision in Cleveland, we are bound by the Supreme Court’s interpretation of our act. See also, Casagrande v. Federal Express, 12 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 170, 1561 CRB-5-92-11 (April 29, 1994); Santucci v. Remodeling Consultants, Inc., 12 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 118, 1438 CRB-7-92-6 (Feb. 28, 1994).

1 We note that “the question of whether one state will award supplemental workers’ compensation benefits to a claimant who previously received benefits under the laws of another state is more appropriately deemed a question of conflict of laws” than one of subject matter jurisdiction. See Cleveland v. U.S. Printing Ink, Inc., 218 Conn. 181, 187 (1991). BACK TO TEXT

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