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Casagrande v. Federal Express Corp.

CASE NO. 2247 CRB-5-94-12

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

JUNE 20, 1996

RENAY CASAGRANDE

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

FEDERAL EXPRESS CORP.

EMPLOYER

RESPONDENT-APPELLEE

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by David C. Leard, Esq., 459 Prospect St., P.O. Box 1104, Torrington, CT 06790.

The respondent was represented by James T. Baldwin, Esq., Cotter, Cotter & Sohon, 500 Boston Post Rd., Milford, CT 06460.

This Petition for Review from the December 15, 1994 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Fifth District was heard October 27, 1995 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners Roberta Smith Tracy and Amado J. Vargas.

OPINION

JESSE M. FRANKL, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review of the December 15, 1994 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Fifth District. In that decision, the commissioner found that the place of the claimant’s employment contract was Kentucky, and thus concluded that the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act did not apply to the claim. In support of her appeal, the claimant contends that Connecticut does have jurisdiction over her workers’ compensation claim because the employment contract was entered into in Connecticut. We affirm the trial commissioner’s decision.

A brief procedural history is in order. The trial commissioner originally entered a Finding and Award on November 18, 1992 which dismissed the claimant’s claim due to lack of jurisdiction. The claimant appealed that decision to the Compensation Review Board, which remanded the matter to the trial commissioner for further findings of fact. Casagrande v. Federal Express, 12 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 170, 1561 CRB-5-92-11 (April 29, 1994). Pursuant to that remand, the trial commissioner held a further hearing and issued a Finding and Award on December 15, 1994, again dismissing the claimant’s claim due to lack of jurisdiction. The December 15, 1994 decision is the subject of the present appeal. In the December 15, 1994 Finding and Award the trial commissioner made findings of fact in addition to the findings made in the November 18, 1992 decision.

The commissioner found the following relevant facts. The claimant was originally hired by Federal Express in Connecticut on December 1, 1986, and worked as a courier in Connecticut until August 1, 1990. On or about July, 1990, the claimant began exploring transfer opportunities offered by Federal Express and applied for a courier position with Federal Express at its Lexington, Kentucky facility. The claimant received a letter dated July 20, 1990 from the operations manager in Kentucky setting forth the terms of the employment offer. The letter indicated that the claimant could accept the offer by signing the letter and returning the original to the operations manager no later than July 27, 1990. The claimant signed and dated the letter on July 23, 1990 and placed the letter in the overnight mail bag to be received in Kentucky the following morning. The claimant began working in the Kentucky location on August 13, 1990. She rented a home in Kentucky, and allowed her son to live at the house which she owned in Connecticut. She considered listing her house in Connecticut for sale, but decided to first see how Kentucky “worked out.” The claimant sustained a lower back injury arising out of and in the course of her employment as a courier in Kentucky on August 20, 1990.

We now turn to the issue of whether this state has jurisdiction over the claimant’s workers’ compensation claim. 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 188.1

In Quinn v. Mid-South Industries, 2020 CRB-2-94-4 (decided Nov. 28, 1995) the Board addressed the issue of the place of contract as a factor in determining jurisdiction. In Quinn the Board held that Connecticut did not have jurisdiction over a claim where the injury occurred in Alabama, the employer was located in Alabama, and the claimant resided in Alabama, regardless of whether the contract of employment was entered into while the claimant was in Connecticut. In Simaitis v. Flood, 182 Conn. 24, 28-29 (1980), the Connecticut Supreme Court reasoned that an analysis regarding jurisdiction should not be confined to a strict application of either the place of injury or the place of contract. 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.

We further cited the following language in Quinn, supra,

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.

Similar to our decision in Quinn, supra, 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 Kentucky, that the employer’s place of business was in Kentucky, and that the claimant was residing in Kentucky when the injury occurred. The only significant connection to Connecticut was the claimant’s acceptance of the offer of employment from Connecticut. We thus agree with the trial commissioner’s determination that Kentucky, rather than Connecticut, properly has jurisdiction over the claim, as Kentucky has “the most significant relationship to the contract of employment” pursuant to the Restatement Second of Conflict of Laws.

In the instant case, 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. We note that this Board had 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, due to the reconsideration of the legal analysis regarding the place of contract as it relates to jurisdiction as set forth in Quinn, supra, we decline to follow a strict place of contract analysis.

In addition, we recognize that the issue in the present case may more properly be characterized as a conflict of laws issue rather than as a jurisdictional issue. Specifically, our Supreme Court has stated 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.” Cleveland, supra, at 187. The court explained that the issue of jurisdiction precedes the conflict of laws question, because “only after the commissioner determines that he has authority to entertain the action does he proceed to the ‘choice’ of whether to award benefits under our Workers’ Compensation Act or, rather, to defer to the earlier grant of benefits under the laws of another state.” Id. In the instant case, the claimant received workers’ compensation benefits in Kentucky. (Nov. 18, 1992 Finding and Award, Finding No. 2 and 3). Accordingly, the trial commissioner’s decision may be considered to be a proper choice of laws determination.

Accordingly, the commissioner’s decision is affirmed.

Commissioners Roberta Smith Tracy and Amado J. Vargas concur.

1 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). BACK TO TEXT

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