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Schiaroli v. UTC/Pratt & Whitney

CASE NO. 3988 CRB-05-99-03

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

MARCH 7, 2000

JOSEPH SCHIAROLI

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

UTC/PRATT & WHITNEY

EMPLOYER

and

AIG CLAIM SERVICES, INC.

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

APPEARANCES:

The claimant appeared pro se at oral argument, and represented himself throughout the instant proceedings.

The respondent was represented by Margaret McGrail, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, 95 Glastonbury Boulevard, Glastonbury, CT 06033.

This Petition for Review from the March 3, 1999 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Fifth District was heard October 15, 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 claimant, who appeared pro se in this case, has petitioned for review from the March 3, 1999 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Fifth District.1 He has filed neither Reasons for Appeal nor a brief, and the respondents have moved to dismiss his appeal for failure to prosecute with due diligence. Based on the claimant’s statements at oral argument, we believe that he appealed because a few of the medical bills that he thought the respondents were supposed to pay are still outstanding. We grant the respondents’ motion, but also attempt to explain the effect of the commissioner’s decision for the benefit of the claimant.

We first note that the claimant personally appeared before this board on June 27, 1997, to challenge a previous Finding and Award in this case. The claimant had objected to the trier’s decision to accept the opinion of Dr. Cucka, whose report stated that the claimant could return to his previous full-time employment as of January 22, 1996. He had also objected to the commissioner’s refusal to authorize the treatment of Dr. Matza. After filing his petition for review, the claimant filed a handwritten document containing his reasons for appeal, and a letter that we treated as his brief. However, he had not filed a Motion to Correct the findings. After discussing the facts of the case through July 8, 1996, we attempted to explain that this board does not have the authority to substitute its own opinions regarding the testimony of the witnesses and the medical records for the opinions of the trial commissioner. Schiaroli v. UTC/Pratt & Whitney, 3555 CRB-3-97-3 (Dec. 30, 1997). The trial commissioner’s decision was therefore affirmed.

Meanwhile, the claimant suffered another injury on December 3, 1997, when he wrenched his back after nearly losing his balance while changing a tool on the machine he was operating. New workers’ compensation proceedings were commenced, wherein the trial commissioner found that the claimant was totally disabled from work through February 21, 1998. He returned to light duty work on March 3, 1998, and full duty work on March 31, 1998. The commissioner found that Dr. Fisher began treating the claimant on December 12, 1997, but ceased treating the claimant on March 2, 1998 “as a result of the claimant’s behavior.” Findings, ¶ 30.

The claimant, without the participation or consent of his employer, then obtained an evaluation with Dr. Taylor, who diagnosed him with a low back strain superimposed upon a degenerated spine. He referred the claimant to Dr. Bellner, who treated the claimant several times in the fall of 1998. Neither doctor gave an opinion relating the claimant’s treatment to any particular injury. Findings, ¶ 36. The claimant also submitted a number of hospital bills that were not accompanied by reports linking the treatment to a compensable injury. The trial commissioner declined to authorize the treatment of Drs. Taylor and Bellner, along with some of the medical and hospital bills. He did state that the claimant was entitled to $51.36 for Dr. Fisher’s prescription reimbursements and travel mileage to and from his authorized treatments, and approved $373.56 in bills from Waterbury Hospital for treatment that took place in December 1997 and February 1998. The respondents were ordered to pay these charges.

The claimant has also filed an appeal from that decision. Unfortunately, he has not offered any kind of a written explanation as to why he is here—not even a letter like the one he previously filed before this board. When a claimant appeals a ruling, he is required by Practice Book § 85-1 and Admin. Reg. § 31-301-2 to file documents that explain the basis of his appeal. Otherwise, we will not know what his claim of error is. The claimant needs to understand that the Compensation Review Board is not here to investigate his claim, or schedule formal hearings, or take evidence, or interview witnesses. When one prosecutes an appeal, his primary weapon is a written brief that lists the legal errors that were made in the trial commissioner’s decision. We do not retry the facts of the case. See Ettienne-Modeste v. Bloomfield, 13 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 327, 1789 CRB-1-93-9 (Apr. 26, 1995). Although we often give extra leeway to pro se claimants in light of their lack of expertise in legal procedure, they still have to file something on their own behalf. We cannot just browse through the record and figure out what the claimant disagrees with.

Thus, we have little choice but to grant the respondents’ Motion to Dismiss. Soden v. Custom Bottle of Connecticut, Inc., 3849 CRB-5-98-6 (Mar. 3, 1999); Beloski v. Selmix-Alco, 15 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 313, 2275 CRB-5-95-1 (June 21, 1996). We also note that there is no visible error in the trial commissioner’s decision, as the facts are all supported by evidence in the record. See Webb v. Pfizer, Inc., 14 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 69, 70-71, 1859 CRB-5-93-9 (May 12, 1995). At oral argument, the claimant made reference to some unpaid bills. These bills did not have to be paid by the workers’ compensation insurer, because the trial commissioner denied all of the treatment that took place in or after April 1998. The commissioner had the discretion to find that Drs. Taylor and Bellner were not authorized treaters under § 31-294d, as the claimant was not referred to them by Dr. Fisher. See Dudley v. Wadsworth Glen, 3942 CRB-8-98-12 (Oct. 14, 1999). This board cannot reverse that ruling. We can observe, however, that if the claimant has group health insurance, he can probably submit his unapproved doctors’ and hospital bills to the health insurance carrier the way he would submit other medical bills, and get them paid that way.

The trial commissioner’s decision is affirmed.

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

1 The respondents also filed a petition for review from the commissioner’s decision, but later requested that it be withdrawn. That request was accepted on April 5, 1999. BACK TO TEXT

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