CASE NO. 3063 CRB-8-95-5
COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION
MARCH 14, 1997
IN RE: VETERANS MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER
R&R CORRUGATED CONTAINER, INC.
CRUM & FORSTER
The appellant medical provider was represented by David Brown, Esq., Brown & Welsh, P. C., Meriden Executive Park, 538 Preston Ave., P. O. Box 183, Meriden, CT 06450-0183.
The claimant was not represented at oral argument.
The respondents were represented by Lucas D. Strunk, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, 95 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury, CT 06033.
This Motion for Costs and Fees was heard June 27, 1996 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of Commissioners George A. Waldron, Donald H. Doyle, Jr., and Robin L. Wilson.
GEORGE A. WALDRON, COMMISSIONER. This case began when the appellant Veterans Memorial Medical Center petitioned for review from a May 12, 1995 letter sent by the chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Commission to the VMMC’s attorney denying its 696 informal hearing requests. Oral argument was conducted on April 1, 2 and 3, 1996, concerning the appeals in all 696 cases. The VMMC had alleged in each case that it provided medical treatment to a person who indicated at the time service was rendered that his injury was connected to his employment. In all of those cases, the VMMC sought a hearing at the district office regarding its medical bills, but provided this Commission with nothing more than a hearing request form listing the name and address of the medical provider (VMMC), the person who received medical attention, the alleged employer, and the alleged insurer, if known.
This board subsequently issued a decision on those appeals, In re: Veterans Memorial Medical Center, 3063 CRB-8-95-5 (decided May 20, 1996). There, we stated that the VMMC had alleged insufficient jurisdictional facts to warrant a hearing on the subject matter jurisdiction of this Commission over the VMMC’s claims. See also Figueroa v. C&S Ball Bearing, 237 Conn. 1 (1996). We noted in our decision that there were a variety of scenarios uncovered at the three-day oral argument session, including a number of claims which had already been accepted as compensable, and a number of cases in which VMMC had either been paid or granted a hearing, but had neglected to withdraw the appeal. Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, one of the many law firms that represented various respondents in the VMMC cases, has now filed a Motion for Costs and Fees on behalf of several of its clients, alleging that the appellant should have withdrawn its appeals in four of those cases.
In this particular case, the claimant suffered a compensable injury on January 22, 1992. An informal hearing was held pursuant to statutory notice in the Fifth District on October 19, 1995, at which the issue was the payment of medical bills. Two weeks later, the commissioner issued a written order stating that there is no claim pending before the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and that the deadline for filing one had expired pursuant to § 31-294c C.G.S. That decision was not appealed. However, the appeal from the chairman’s May 12, 1995 letter denying hearings on the VMMC cases remained pending before the CRB. Although this claim was one of the many cases encompassed by the appeal, the medical provider took no action to withdraw the appeal with respect to this case before the April 3, 1996 oral argument. Instead, VMMC and the respondents were both represented at oral argument, where respondents’ counsel stated that an informal hearing had already been held on the issue of medical bills. VMMC filed a withdrawal of its appeal that day.
As part of its objection to the respondents’ Motion for Costs and Fees, VMMC argues that the issue of the chairman’s letter was not necessarily made moot by the subsequent granting of hearings by some district offices in certain cases. Although that argument might merit closer attention in another case, we do not agree that the instant claim continued to be viable on appeal following the commissioner’s October 19, 1995 order. Once no appeal was taken from that decision, the dismissal of this claim for lack of jurisdiction became final. No subsequent decision by this board on the appeals from the chairman’s letter could have revitalized this claim, as it was now closed. VMMC itself noted in its brief that a case becomes moot when “during the pendency of an appeal, events have occurred that preclude an appellate court from granting any practical relief through its disposition of the merits.” In re Romance M., 229 Conn. 345, 357 (1994). The order dismissing this action for failure to file a claim was such an event, which the appellant itself properly recognized by withdrawing its appeal on April 3, 1996.
We recognize that the huge number of claims involved in this appeal played a big part in the appellant’s failure to withdraw cases that had already been resolved. However, we cannot agree with VMMC’s contention that the respondents are as much to blame as the appellant for not taking steps to ensure that this appeal was withdrawn. We noted in our May 20, 1996 VMMC decision that there were a number of claims listed among the appealed cases that should have been withdrawn. As the party pursuing these claims, VMMC had the sole power to withdraw its petitions for review. In prosecuting an appeal of this magnitude, it was incumbent upon VMMC—and not the various respondents—to take special care to insure that the valuable resources of this commission would not be wasted by spending time reviewing and discussing settled cases. That was not done properly. Now, some of the parties who were forced to pay counsel to defend such claims are understandably unhappy that their own financial resources were also wasted.
Section 31-301(e) C.G.S. provides that, where applicable, the procedure in appealing a commissioner’s award is the same as the procedure used in appealing a superior court decision to the supreme court. According to the Rules of Appellate Procedure, a party may have costs and attorney’s fees imposed against it for presenting unnecessary, unwarranted, or frivolous issues on appeal, as well as for disregarding the rules governing withdrawal of appeals. Practice Book § 4184B(4), (5), (8). Practice Book § 4165.4 also states that no costs shall be taxed in favor of either party upon reservation of a workers’ compensation case by this board or upon appeal from this board, “provided that if an appeal is found by the court either to be frivolous or to be taken for the purpose of vexation or delay, the court may tax costs in its discretion against the person so taking the appeal.” We have concluded that the appellant allowed unnecessary and frivolous issues to remain before this board on appeal, inconveniencing both the staff of this commission and the attorneys for all parties. Thus, under the authority of the aforementioned statutes, we hold that the appellant VMMC is liable for the costs and fees incurred by the respondents in this appeal. See also § 51-84(b) C.G.S. (Attorneys subject to rules of all courts, and may be fined for transgressing a court’s rules and orders).
The respondents’ Motion for Costs and Fees is granted, and the matter is remanded for a determination of the costs incurred.
Commissioners Donald H. Doyle, Jr. and Robin L. Wilson concur.