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Rodriguez v. Seal Rite Manufacturing et al.

CASE NO. 3954 CRB-04-98-12

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

JANUARY 20, 2000

RUBEN RODRIGUEZ

NAMED CLAIMANT

APPELLEE

v.

SEAL RITE MANUFACTURING

EMPLOYER

and

TRAVELERS PROPERTY & CASUALTY

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

and

DR. CHARLES GIANETTI

MEDICAL PROVIDER

APPELLANT

APPEARANCES:

The named claimant did not appear.

The appellant medical provider appeared on his own behalf.

The respondent employer was represented by Frank Ancona, Esq., Sizemore Law Offices, Crossroads Corporate Park, 6 Devine Street, 1st Floor, North Haven, CT 06473.

This Petition for Review from the December 22, 1998 Ruling Re: Motion to Dismiss of the Commissioner acting for the Fourth District was heard August 6, 1999 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the then Commission Chairman, Jesse M. Frankl and Commissioners Angelo L. dos Santos and Stephen B. Delaney.

OPINION

JESSE M. FRANKL, COMMISSIONER. The appellant Dr. Charles Gianetti has petitioned for review from the December 22, 1998 Ruling Re: Motion to Dismiss of the Commissioner acting for the Fourth District. In that decision, the trial commissioner determined that the Workers’ Compensation Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction and thus dismissed the physician’s claim regarding a medical bill. Specifically, the trial commissioner found that the appellant physician sought to collect the balance of a medical bill incurred for services rendered to Ruben Rodriguez, who had never filed a workers’ compensation claim for his injury. In support of his appeal, the appellant contends that the claimant was furnished with medical care by the employer within one year of the injury, and thus that the claim meets the medical care exception to the statute of limitations contained in § 31-294c(c).

In In re: Veterans Memorial Medical Center, 3063 CRB-8-95-5 (decided May 20, 1996), the central question was whether the medical care provider (a hospital) was entitled to a hearing on the compensability of its medical services in cases where no workers’ compensation claim had been filed by an injured employee. The Board ruled that Figueroa v. C&S Ball Bearing, 237 Conn. 1 (1996) was dispositive of this issue. The court in Figueroa, explained as follows:

Jurisdiction of the subject-matter is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong. . . . A court has subject matter jurisdiction if it has the authority to adjudicate a particular type of legal controversy. . . . It is a familiar principle that a court which exercises a limited and statutory jurisdiction is without jurisdiction to act unless it does so under the precise circumstances and in the manner particularly prescribed by the enabling legislation.
Id., at 4, quoting Castro v. Viera, 207 Conn. 420, 427-28 (1988).

An administrative agency such as the Workers’ Compensation Commission is such a tribunal. Its subject matter jurisdiction cannot be created through consent or waiver, but must be conferred by statute. Castro, supra, 428.

In Figueroa, the court explained that this Commission does not have jurisdiction under the Workers’ Compensation Act until a written notice of claim has been filed, or unless one of the alternatives under § 31-294c(a) C.G.S. has been satisfied. The court did not accept the plaintiff’s argument that the medical provider may furnish the requisite notice of claim on behalf of an employee. “Although the statute does not explicitly state that an ‘employee’ shall provide the notice of claim, it is clear from a reading of the act that employees, not medical providers or other third parties, have standing to initiate a claim. . . . [T]he statutory scheme reflects [the intent to benefit injured employees] and requires that the injured employee invoke the commission’s jurisdiction by furnishing the required notice if he wishes to take advantage of the act.” Id., at 6-7 (emphasis in original).1

The court in Figueroa rejected the medical provider’s argument that it has independent standing to initiate a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Although decisions such as Gonzalez v. Electric Transport (Penske), 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 6, 8, 1729 CRB-1-93-5 (Oct. 13, 1994), and Derman v. City of Norwalk, 8 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 100, 101-02, 860 CRD-7-89-5 (May 24, 1990), have established that a medical provider has standing before the Commission to request a hearing regarding medical bills, they are restricted to situations where the jurisdiction of the Commission has already been invoked by the employee or employer. In re: Veterans Memorial Medical Center, supra; see also Baigert v. Fosdick Corp., 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 78, 1784 CRB-8-93-7 (Jan. 20, 1995) (without an underlying assertion by claimant to workers’ compensation benefits, commissioner would have no basis on which to inquire about medical services).

In Gaudino v. Chromium Process, Case No. 3585 CRB-4-97-4 (June 5, 1998), the Board explained that “ Figueroa only stands for the proposition that a medical provider (or other outside party) does not have the standing to furnish the notice required of an employee to invoke the jurisdiction of the commission. Id., at 7. In other words, where a workers’ compensation claim has not been filed, a medical provider or insurance company cannot file it on behalf of the claimant.” We have held that “it is within the discretion of an injured employee to choose not to file a workers’ compensation claim.” Delgardo v. ARRA Construction, Case No. 3913 CRB-4-98-10 (August 30, 1999) (emphasis in original).

Accordingly, in the instant case, as no claim has been filed by the claimant, we must affirm the trial commissioner’s dismissal due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The trial commissioner’s decision is affirmed.

Commissioners Angelo L. dos Santos and Stephen B. Delaney concur.

1 The court explained that an injured employee may choose not to take advantage of the Workers’ Compensation Act, and may choose to pay for the medical services “personally or have it paid through other means.” Figueroa, supra, at 9. BACK TO TEXT

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