CASE NO. 3357 CRB-1-96-5
COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION
NOVEMBER 7, 1997
ITT HARTFORD INSURANCE GROUP
SECOND INJURY FUND
The claimant was represented by Barry Moller, Esq., Cramer & Anderson, 46 West St., P.O. Box 278, Litchfield, CT 06759.
The respondents were represented by Stephen Ekern, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, 95 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury, CT 06033-4412.
The Second Injury Fund was represented at the trial level by Loida John Nicholson, Assistant Attorney General, 55 Elm St., P.O. Box 120, Hartford, CT 06141-0120, who did not appear at oral argument.
This Petition for Review from the May 17, 1996 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the First District was heard February 28, 1997 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners James J. Metro and John A. Mastropietro.
JESSE M. FRANKL, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review from the May 17, 1996 Finding and Dismissal of the trial commissioner acting for the First District. In that decision, the trial commissioner denied the claimant’s request to reopen an approved stipulation. In support of his appeal, the claimant reiterates the contentions presented to the trial commissioner that the stipulation was entered into due to accident and mutual mistake. Accordingly, the claimant contends that it was an abuse of discretion for the trial commissioner to deny the claimant’s motion to reopen. We find no error on the part of the trial commissioner.
The trial commissioner found the following relevant facts. The claimant on June 26, 1984 sustained an injury to his cervical and lumbar spine, left knee, and left forearm. A voluntary agreement was approved on August 14, 1985 for said injury. On April 14, 1989 a transfer agreement was approved for the transfer of the claimant’s upper body condition and any psychiatric component. On December 13, 1993 a stipulation was approved which settled the claimant’s claims pertaining to his left knee and left arm for $25,000.00. The claimant was represented by counsel during the approval of the stipulation. On January 14, 1995 the claimant filed a motion to reopen the approved stipulation.
“[A]n Award by Stipulation is a binding award which, on its terms, bars a further claim for compensation unless Sec. 31-3151, which allows for modification, is satisfied.” Mongillo v. Terminal Taxi Co., 12 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 197, 199, 1455 CRB-3-92-7 (March 7, 1994) (citations omitted). “Like a stipulated judgment in Superior Court, an Award by Stipulation may be set aside without the consent of all parties only if it was obtained by fraud, misrepresentation, accident or mistake.” Gonzalez v. Electric Transport (Penske), 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 6, 8, 1729 CRB-1-93-5 (Oct. 13, 1994). Furthermore, a trial commissioner’s decision to open an approved stipulation “falls within the trial [commissioner’s] discretion and will be overturned on appeal only if such discretion was abused or if an unreasonable result was reached.” Id. (citing Housing Authority v. Lamothe, 225 Conn. 757, 767 (1993)).
In the instant case, the claimant contends that the Fund’s discontinuance of health insurance premiums and the Fund’s reduction in weekly benefit checks caused a significant, unanticipated change in conditions. The trial commissioner found that the Fund’s discontinuance of health care premiums was due to federal and state court opinions.2 The trial commissioner further found that the reduction in weekly benefits by $100.00 was due to an alleged overpayment or other accounting problem. The trial commissioner concluded that these events, although unfortunate, did not provide sufficient grounds for reopening a stipulation.
In further support of his appeal, the claimant reiterates his argument that the stipulation should be reopened because there is disagreement regarding the body parts included in the agreement to transfer to the Fund. The claimant contends that there is ambiguity as to “what body parts were transferred to the Second Injury Fund and what body parts were stipped out....” To the contrary, the trial commissioner found that “the clear intent of the stipulation” was to close out the body parts not transferred to the Fund, specifically the left knee and left arm. (Finding No. 10). The trial commissioner specifically found that the claimant was represented by competent counsel at the time of the stipulation approval, and “the claimant understood that he was closing out left knee and left forearm claims in exchange for $25,000.00.” (Finding B).
We have consistently held that it “is the trial commissioner, as the trier of facts, who determines with finality the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be accorded their testimony.” Miller v. TVCCA, 12 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 348, 349, 1675 CRB-2-93-3 (July 29, 1994), aff’d., 39 Conn. App. 935 (1995) (citations omitted). The trial commissioner’s conclusion that the claimant did not have sufficient reason pursuant to § 31-315 to reopen the approved voluntary stipulation is supported by the record. We note that the claimant has not alleged any fraud or misrepresentation as a basis for his motion to reopen.
The commissioner’s decision is affirmed, and the claimant’s appeal is dismissed.
Commissioners James J. Metro and John A. Mastropietro concur.
1 Section 31-315 provides, in pertinent part, that an award or voluntary agreement may be modified “whenever it appears to the compensation commissioner, after notice and hearing thereon, that the incapacity of an injured employee has increased, decreased or ceased...or that changed conditions of fact have arisen which necessitate a change of such agreement or award in order properly to carry out the spirit of this chapter. The commissioner shall also have the same power to open and modify an award as any court of the state has to open and modify a judgment of such court.” BACK TO TEXT
2 On April 27, 1993 the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Luis v. Frito-Lay, Inc., No. SC 14536 that § 31-284b was preempted by ERISA pursuant to a federal court decision. BACK TO TEXT