State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
Home News RSS News QUICK Find Index Search E-Mail
General Information Glossary Law CRB Opinions Workers' Compensation Commission Downloadable Forms and Publications Links

Jarvis v. Lego Systems, Inc.

CASE NO. 2210 CRB-1-94-11

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

APRIL 23, 1996

JAMES JARVIS

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

LEGO SYSTEMS, INC.

EMPLOYER

and

AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Donald G. Leis, Jr., Esq., Bromson & Reiner, 546 Halfway House Road, P. O. Box 249, Windsor Locks, CT 06096.

The respondents were represented by Margaret Corrigan, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, 95 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury, CT 06033.

This Petition for Review from the November 7, 1994 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the First District was heard September 22, 1995 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners George A. Waldron and Roberta Smith Tracy.

OPINION

JESSE M. FRANKL, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review from the November 7, 1994 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the First District. He argues on appeal that the trial commissioner erroneously concluded that the claimant failed to prove that a compensable injury occurred, and that he improperly denied the claimant’s Motion to Correct. We affirm the trial commissioner’s decision.

The trial commissioner found that the claimant was employed by Lego Systems prior to and on June 17, 1992. He testified that on that date, he hurt his back while lifting a box during the course of his employment. He also testified that immediately after the injury, he told a co-worker and his shift supervisor that he had hurt his back lifting a box, and that his supervisor allowed him to finish his shift in the light duty section. He said that he also told the employer’s in-house nurse of his injury the next day. According to the claimant, he had no significant back problems prior to June 17, 1992, although it had bothered him from time to time. He mentioned that he had been involved in physical labor for a period of time before his injury while constructing an above-ground swimming pool, and that he had not been pleased with a change in his job duties that occurred several weeks before the date of his alleged injury.

Both the claimant’s co-worker and his supervisor testified that the claimant had complained of back pain on June 17, 1992, but did not describe the cause of his injury. The supervisor also testified that the claimant was unhappy with his job change, and that he mocked his employer and flaunted a light duty work slip he had received from his doctor on June 22, 1992. The in-house nurse testified that the claimant gave a sketchy four or five-month history of back problems when he reported his injury, but did not mention a box-lifting incident from the prior day. The trial commissioner concluded that there were factual inconsistencies in the testimony of the various witnesses, and that the respondents had presented a more credible story. Thus, he ruled that the claimant had failed to sustain his burden of proof, and dismissed the claim. The claimant has appealed that decision.

“Determining whether an injury arose out of and in the course of employment is a question of fact for the commissioner.” Plitnick v. Knoll Pharmaceuticals, 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 26, 28, 1699 CRB-8-93-4 (Nov. 7, 1994), quoting Crochiere v. Board of Education, 227 Conn. 333, 346 (1993). Such a factual conclusion cannot be disturbed on review unless the record indicates that the findings underlying that conclusion lack supporting evidence, or unless the findings fail to include admitted and undisputed material facts. Plitnick, supra, 28; Grady v. St. Mary’s Hospital, 179 Conn. 662, 669 (1980). To that end, the trial commissioner is entitled to evaluate the credibility of witnesses’ testimony and other evidence. Webb v. Pfizer, Inc., 14 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 69, 1859 CRB-5-93-9 (May 12, 1995).

In this case, the evidence supporting the occurrence of a work-related injury consists mainly of the claimant’s testimony and the medical reports, although the latter are based on the work history provided by the claimant insofar as they describe how the injury occurred. The respondents presented testimony from several co-workers that contradicted certain statements made by the claimant regarding his explanation of his injury at the time of the alleged accident. The trial commissioner found that the claimant’s story was less credible than the respondent’s, and concluded that the claimant failed to sustain his burden of proof. This was a reasonable conclusion on the basis of that testimony, and it would be improper for us to second-guess it here. Adzima v. UAC/Norden Division, 177 Conn. 107, 117-18 (1979); Webb, supra.

The corrections offered in the claimant’s Motion to Correct sought to add findings detailing statements that the claimant and the respondents’ witnesses had made on the record, along with findings based on the diagnosis of the claimant’s treating physician. The claimant points out that the commissioner’s Finding and Dismissal already contains many findings that are “nothing more than recitals of evidence and claims of the parties,” and argues that it is impossible to tell which of these were accepted as facts and which were rejected as lacking in credibility.

Administrative Regulation § 31-301-3 states that the “finding of the commissioner should contain only the ultimate relevant and material facts essential to the case in hand and found by him, together with a statement of his conclusions and the claims of law made by the parties. It should not contain excerpts from evidence or merely evidential facts, nor the reasons for his conclusions.” We acknowledge that the Finding and Dismissal does contain excerpts from the testimony that were not phrased, nor intended to be phrased, as findings. There are few paragraphs in the Finding and Dismissal that amount to traditional factual findings.

The basis for the commissioner’s decision, however, is stated clearly: he did not find the claimant’s version of the facts more credible than the respondents’ version. The “recitals of testimony” in the Finding and Dismissal are helpful in that they delineate the substance of the testimony that the trial commissioner was considering. The additional excerpts from the testimony offered in the Motion to Correct did not have to be added to the findings as a matter of law, because the commissioner was under no obligation to credit them as true. Only corrections that would have an impact on the outcome of a case need be granted. Plitnick, supra; Sylvia v. Victorian Salon, 14 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 270, 1976 CRB-2-94-2 (Sept. 6, 1995). As for the corrections based on Dr. Casale’s medical reports, the question here was less the existence of the injury than its cause. Thus, those corrections were immaterial.

In a different case, the commissioner’s Finding and Dismissal might have contained insufficient findings to support his decision. See, e.g., Conetta v. Stamford, 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 68, 69, 1491 CRB-7-92-8 (Dec. 29, 1994). Here, however, the ultimate conclusion was that the claimant failed to meet his burden of proof because his testimony was less credible than that of the other witnesses. The “inconsistencies” cited by the commissioner in support of his conclusion can be discerned from the parties’ testimony. The commissioner was not required by Admin. Reg. § 31-301-3 to explain the reasons why he found the claimant’s testimony insufficiently credible to satisfy his burden of proof. Therefore, there is no need to remand this case for further explanation.

The trial commissioner’s decision is affirmed.

Commissioners George A. Waldron and Roberta Smith Tracy concur.

Workers’ Compensation Commission

Page last revised: May 11, 2005

Page URL: http://wcc.state.ct.us/crb/1996/2210crb.htm

Workers’ Compensation Commission Disclaimer, Privacy Policy and Website Accessibility

State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
Home News RSS News QUICK Find Index Search E-Mail
General Information Glossary Law CRB Opinions Workers' Compensation Commission Downloadable Forms and Publications Links