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Quinn v. Mid-South Industries

CASE NO. 2020 CRB-2-94-4

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

NOVEMBER 28, 1995

WILLIAM QUINN

CLAIMANT-APPELLEE

v.

MID-SOUTH INDUSTRIES

EMPLOYER

RESPONDENT-APPELLANT

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Jeremiah Z. Kenner, Esq., Embry & Neusner, 118 Poquonnock Rd., P.O. Box 1409, Groton, CT 06340.

The respondent was represented by Lucas D. Strunk, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, 95 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury, CT 06033-4412.

This Petition for Review from the March 30, 1994 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Second District was heard March 10, 1995 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of Commissioner George Waldron and Commissioners Donald H. Doyle, Jr., and Amado J. Vargas.

OPINION

GEORGE WALDRON, COMMISSIONER. The respondent has petitioned for review of the March 30, 1994 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Second District. In that decision, the commissioner found that the claimant’s employment contract was entered into in Connecticut, and thus concluded that the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act applied to the claim. In support of its appeal, the respondent contends that Connecticut does not have jurisdiction over the claimant’s workers’ compensation claim because the employment contract called for employment in Alabama, the claimant was employed in Alabama, and the injury occurred in Alabama. We agree with the respondent and thus reverse the trial commissioner.

First, we will address the claimant’s motion to dismiss the respondent’s appeal. The claimant contends that the commissioner’s Finding and Award issued on March 30, 1994 is not a final decision and is thus not appealable. Contrary to the claimant’s arguments, this Board does have jurisdiction to decide interlocutory appeals. Poventud v. Eagle Four, 6 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 72, 775 CRD-5-88-10 (Dec. 30, 1988). Moreover, § 31-301(a) specifically provides that parties may appeal to the Compensation Review Board from trial commissioner’s rulings on motions. See Marshall v. UTC/Pratt & Whitney, 11 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 204, 1317 CRD-1-91-10 (Sept. 27, 1993). Accordingly, the claimant’s motion to dismiss is denied.

The commissioner found the following relevant facts. In June of 1983, the claimant responded to an employment advertisement in a Connecticut newspaper which had been placed by the respondent. At that time, the claimant was a Connecticut resident and was domiciled in Connecticut. The respondent at all times was an Alabama company with its sole manufacturing plant located in Alabama. Shortly after the claimant had contacted the respondent, the respondent telephoned the claimant and arranged for him to come to Alabama for an interview, and the claimant complied. The claimant returned to the Alabama facility for a second interview in July of 1983. During this interview, the respondent offered the claimant a position, but the claimant did not accept the offer at that time. Subsequently, several days after the claimant had returned to his home in Connecticut, the respondent telephoned the claimant. Over the telephone, the parties negotiated a salary which was three thousand dollars higher than the offer which had been made in Alabama, and the claimant accepted this offer. In addition, the claimant confirmed his acceptance via letter mailed from Connecticut.

On August 15, 1983 the claimant commenced working for the respondent in Alabama. Most of the claimant’s work was performed in Alabama, although he did sometimes travel to Virginia to deal with the respondent’s distributor, and to Connecticut to recruit technical people to work for the respondent. The claimant stopped working for the respondent on September 5, 1986 and moved to Massachusetts. Subsequently, the claimant filed a notice of claim under the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act for “physical and emotional stress reaction due to pressures and demands of employment from 1983 to 1986.”

The commissioner concluded that Connecticut had jurisdiction over the claimant’s claim because the employment contract was entered into in this state as it was executed when the claimant verbally negotiated the final details and conveyed his acceptance while at his home in Connecticut.1 In addition, the commissioner concluded that the claimant had substantial contact with this state in that he was a Connecticut resident when he was hired.

The Connecticut Supreme Court has stated that the law in effect at the time of the claimant’s alleged injury must be applied when determining jurisdiction. Kluttz v. Howard, 228 Conn. 401, 404, n. 3 (1994). Thus, in the instant case we must look to the law as it existed in 1986. The Connecticut Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that this state has jurisdiction over workers’ compensation claims where “Connecticut is the place of the injury, the place of the employment contract or the place of the employment relation.” Kluttz, supra, at 406 (emphasis added), (citing Cleveland v. U.S. Printing Ink, Inc., 218 Conn. 181, 195 (1991)). “Historically, the employment contract determined whether a claimant might receive workers’ compensation benefits under our Workers’ Compensation Act.” Cleveland, supra, at 188. The court cited six cases in reference to the above quote. In each of these cases, in addition to the employment contract, there was also a substantial connection to Connecticut: Morin v. Lemieux, 179 Conn. 501 (1980) (employer was a general contractor who resided in Connecticut); Pettiti v. Pardy Construction Co., 103 Conn. 101 (1925) (employer was a Connecticut corporation); Hopkins v. Matchless Metal Polish Co., 99 Conn. 457 (1923) (claimant was a Connecticut resident, principal employment services were rendered in Connecticut, and claimant’s injury occurred in Connecticut); Banks v. Howlett Co., 92 Conn. 368 (1918) (injury occurred in Connecticut); Douthwright v. Champlin, 91 Conn. 524 (1917) (injury occurred in Connecticut); Kennerson v. Thames Towboat Co., 89 Conn. 367 (1915) (employer was a Connecticut corporation, the claimants were citizens of Connecticut, and claimants’ work was performed in Connecticut and on the high seas).

The Connecticut Supreme Court in 1980 revised the rule that the place of the employment contract is determinative of jurisdiction. Specifically, the court clarified that an analysis regarding jurisdiction should not be confined to a strict application of either the place of injury or the place of contract. Simaitis v. Flood, 182 Conn. 24, 28-29 (1980). The court stated: “jurisdictions which have adhered to the contract choice of law rule have become immersed in disputes over contract law to determine where the employment contract was made, disputes which bear no relationship to the purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Act.” Id. at 29. The court further explained that the determination of the place of an employment contract presents artificial arguments because the determination:

rests on the unrealistic character of the place-of-contract test when construed to depend upon the sheer formality of being physically present in a particular geographic subdivision when a signature is scrawled or a word spoken into a telephone mouthpiece. There is nothing in this technicality of relevance to the choice of an appropriate statute for practical compensation purposes.
Simaitis, supra, at 29.

As an alternative approach to choice of law issues in workers’ compensation cases, the court “looked to an examination of the respective interests of the relevant jurisdictions in applying their law to the controversy, and turned for guidance to the principles of § 181 of the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws.” O’Connor v. O’Connor, 201 Conn. 632, 638, (1986) (citing Simaitis, supra, 32-33); see also Cleveland v. U.S. Printing Ink, Inc., 218 Conn. 181, 193 (1991).

Section 181 of the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws provides that a state may award relief to a person under its workers’ compensation statute under six scenarios:

(a) the person is injured in the State, or
(b) the employment is principally located in the State, or
(c) the employer supervised the employee’s activities from a place of business in the State, or
(d) the State is that of most significant relationship to the contract of employment with respect to the issue of workmen’s compensation..., or
(e) the parties have agreed ... that their rights should be determined under the workmen’s compensation act of the State, or
(f) the State has some other reasonable relationship to the occurrence, the parties and the employment.
Simaitis, supra, at 33.

In the instant case, we find the court’s reasoning in Simaitis, including the court’s reliance on Section 181 Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws, to be instructive.

Specifically, the Restatement provides that a state may assert jurisdiction where it has the “most significant relationship to the contract of employment with respect to the issue of workmen’s compensation.” The undisputed facts in this case indicate that the claimant’s injury occurred in Alabama, that the employer’s place of business was in Alabama, and that the claimant was an Alabama resident when the injury occurred. In fact, the only connection to Connecticut was the claimant’s acceptance of the offer of employment from his home in Connecticut, after the negotiations regarding the employment position had occurred in person at the employer’s facility in Alabama on two separate occasions. We thus conclude that Alabama, rather than Connecticut, has “the most significant relationship to the contract of employment” pursuant to the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws. We further note that the claimant never received medical care in Connecticut. Under these circumstances, we find the connection to Connecticut to be too remote to award benefits under our Workers’ Compensation Act. Based upon the facts as found by the trial commissioner, we can find no reasonable legal basis for Connecticut to exercise jurisdiction.

For the above reason, the commissioner’s decision is reversed.

Commissioners Donald H. Doyle, Jr., and Amado J. Vargas concur.

1 We note that this Board has stated: “When the contract of employment between the parties was entered into in this state, our Workers’ Compensation Act is available to determine the compensability of the employee’s injury, regardless of the place of the employment relationship or the place of injury.” Casagrande v. Federal Express, 12 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 170, 172, 1561 CRB-5-92-11 (April 29, 1994). However, that case is distinguishable from the case at hand because in Casagrande the employer maintained a facility in Connecticut, where the claimant worked for several years prior to transferring to another state. BACK TO TEXT

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