State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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Carroll v. The Print Shoppe

CASE NO. 3614 CRB-04-97-05

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

JUNE 8, 1998

ELAINE CARROLL

CLAIMANT-APPELLEE

v.

THE PRINT SHOPPE

EMPLOYER

and

UTICA MUTUAL INSURANCE CO.

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Paul Ganim, Esq., Ganim, Ganim & Ganim, 4666 Main St., Bridgeport, CT 06606.

The respondents were represented by Timothy Welsh, Esq., McGann, Bartlett, & Brown, 281 Hartford Tpke., Vernon, CT 06066.

This Petition for Review from the May 1, 1997 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Fourth District was heard January 9, 1998 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners Donald H. Doyle, Jr., and Michael S. Miles

OPINION

JESSE M. FRANKL, CHAIRMAN. The respondents have petitioned for review from the May 1, 1997 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Fourth District. They argue on appeal that the trier’s findings do not conform with Admin. Reg. § 31-301-3, and take issue with the trier’s decision to credit the claimant’s testimony. We affirm the trial commissioner’s decision.

The trial commissioner found that the claimant worked as a counter person for respondent The Print Shoppe on May 2, 1995, when she injured her back at work while lifting a box of paper for a customer. The claimant testified that she told one of the co-owners of the store about her injury when he returned late that afternoon, but he dismissed her complaint of pain, saying “don’t tell me that. We’re so busy right now, I can’t have anyone sick or hurt.” She continued working, avoiding lifting anything heavy. A week later, she spoke to a doctor, who recommended a back specialist. On May 19, 1995, the claimant saw Dr. Garver, who found her to be totally disabled. The respondents contested liability on the ground that the claimant did not injure herself at work. The trier concluded that the claimant indeed sustained a compensable injury, and ordered the respondents to pay the reasonable costs of her medical treatment and total disability benefits. The respondents have appealed that decision.

The respondents raise three arguments in their brief, only two of which we need address.1 First, they contend that the claimant admitted lying both on her employment application and in her deposition regarding her past history of back injuries, and that these transgressions require that the conflicting testimony between the claimant and her employers be resolved in favor of the latter. The description of this argument itself presages its legal insufficiency. We have stated many times that the power and duty of determining the facts in a workers’ compensation case rests upon the trial commissioner, who is entitled to weigh the evidence presented and determine the credibility of the testimony offered by lay and expert witnesses. Webb v. Pfizer, Inc., 14 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 69, 70-71, 1859 CRB-5-93-9 (May 12, 1995); see also Kish v. Nursing Home & Care, Inc., 47 Conn. App. 620, 627 (1998); Maio v. L. G. Defelice, Inc., 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 197, 198-99, 1734 CRB-5-93-5 (March 22, 1995). Once the trial commissioner makes a finding regarding the credibility of evidence, this board may not reevaluate that evidence on review to reach our own decision. Jusiewicz v. Reliance Automotive, 3140 CRB-6-95-8 (decided Jan. 24, 1997); Webb, supra. If the trial commissioner believed the claimant’s testimony over that of the respondents, that was her prerogative, regardless of any inconsistencies in that testimony.

Second, the respondents argue that the commissioner’s decision contains insufficient factual findings to support her legal conclusions. They contend that most of the findings consist of excerpts from the evidence, particularly recitals of the claimant’s testimony, which conflict with Admin. Reg. § 31-301-3.2 We have occasionally held in past cases discussing § 31-301-3 that insufficient factual findings were made to support a trier’s conclusion. See, e.g., Conetta v. Stamford, 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 68, 69, 1491 CRB-7-92-8 (Dec. 29, 1994). However, we have not adopted an overly formalistic approach to reviewing commissioner’s decisions that abandons common sense by ignoring “recitals of testimony” when they provide direct support for a trial commissioner’s conclusions. See Jarvis v. Lego Systems, Inc., 15 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 202, 204-205, 2210 CRB-1-94-11 (April 23, 1996).

Here, the commissioner may have phrased certain findings with the preface “the claimant testified that . . . ,” but her conclusion that the claimant suffered a compensable work injury is clearly supported by these fragments of testimony. See Jarvis, supra, 204. We acknowledge that it would have been preferable for the trial commissioner to explicitly list the statements of the claimant that she found to be true. We will not pretend, however, that we are unable to discern the basis for her decision from the findings listed in ¶¶ 1-11 of her Finding and Award. There is a line between inartful drafting and insufficient factual findings, and this decision does not cross that line.

The trial commissioner’s decision is affirmed.

Commissioners Donald H. Doyle, Jr., and Michael S. Miles concur.

1 The respondents raised the argument in their brief that the parties had excluded total disability from the issues that the trial commissioner would consider at the formal hearing. At oral argument, their counsel announced that that issue has been withdrawn. BACK TO TEXT

2 Admin. Reg. § 31-301-3 provides that “[t]he 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. The opinions, beliefs, reasons and argument of the commissioner should be expressed in the memorandum of decision, if any be filed, so far as they may be helpful in the decision of the case.” BACK TO TEXT

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