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Hyatt v. City of Milford

CASE NO. 4127 CRB-03-99-09

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

NOVEMBER 7, 2000

WILLIAM HYATT

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

CITY OF MILFORD

EMPLOYER

SELF-INSURED

RESPONDENT-APPELLEE

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Matthew Gilbride, Esq., Gilbride & Rigat, 23 East Main Street, Clinton, CT 06413.

The respondent was represented by James Baldwin, Esq., Coles, Baldwin & Craft, L.L.C., P.O. Box 577, 1261 Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06430.

This Petition for Review from the September 9, 1999 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Third District was heard June 16, 2000 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro and Commissioners Robin L. Wilson and Leonard S. Paoletta.

OPINION

JOHN A. MASTROPIETRO, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review from the September 9, 1999 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Third District. In that decision the trial commissioner dismissed the claimant’s claim for benefits under § 7-433c because the medical evidence indicated that the claimant had hypertension when he took his pre-employment physical examination. In support of his appeal, the claimant argues that the trier erred by applying today’s medical standards in concluding that the claimant had hypertension at the time of his pre-employment physical examination.

The trial commissioner found that the claimant was employed by the City of Milford (respondent) in the sanitation department from 1973 to 1976. Prior to commencing employment with the Milford Fire Department, the claimant underwent a pre-employment physical with Dr. Rosenthal on July 21, 1976. Dr. Rosenthal recorded the claimant’s blood pressure on July 21, 1976 as 140 (systolic) and 86 (diastolic). In his July 21, 1976 report, Dr. Rosenthal indicated that the claimant had “mod. hypertension.” Subsequently, on January 29, 1993, the claimant filed a § 7-433c claim seeking heart and hypertension benefits after a November 16, 1992 examination indicated that he had hypertension. The respondent contested the claim, arguing that the pre-employment physical indicated hypertension, and also arguing that his claim was not timely.

Uniformed members of municipal fire and police departments who suffer health impairments due to hypertension or heart disease are entitled to compensation under § 7-433c, provided they (a) were hired before July 1, 1996, and (b) upon entry into service, passed a physical examination that “failed to reveal any evidence of hypertension or heart disease.” Leary v. Stamford, 3280 CRB-7-96-3 (Sept. 17, 1997). The Appellate Court explained that “§ 7-433c is clear and unambiguous that the physical examination on entry into service must fail ‘to reveal any evidence of hypertension or heart disease….’ That means the physical examination must reveal no evidence of hypertension or heart disease in order for the claimant to be eligible for the application of § 7-433c.” Suprenant v. New Britain, 28 Conn. App. 754, 758-59 (1992), quoting Horkheimer v. Stratford, 4 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 139, 143, 163 CRD-4-82 (Dec. 31, 1987); see also Gillette v. Monroe, 56 Conn. App. 235, 242 (1999). A claimant not only has to pass a pre-employment physical to invoke this “bonus” compensation statute; the exam also must reveal no evidence of hypertension or heart disease. Cooper v. Seymour, 11 Conn. Workers’ Comp. Rev. Op. 274, 276-77, 1336 CRD-5-91-11 (Nov. 19, 1993).

The determination of whether a physical examination revealed any evidence of hypertension or heart disease is a factual issue committed to the trier’s sound discretion. Leary, supra. As long as a commissioner’s findings have roots in the evidence, this board may not invalidate them on review. We have stated that there is no per se legal hypertension line based on one blood pressure reading. Id. However, a single high blood pressure reading may constitute evidence of hypertension. See Cooper, supra, (single 146/88 blood pressure reading constituted “some evidence” of hypertension within trial commissioner’s opinion; CRB affirmed dismissal of claim, even though the only medical opinion stated that there was no evidence of existing hypertension). Moreover, we have explained that “(t)he phrase ‘any evidence of hypertension’ in § 7-433c is not identical to ‘a diagnosis of hypertension.’” Leary, supra.

In support of his appeal, the claimant argues, as he argued at the formal hearing, that the medical community in 1976 did not consider a blood pressure reading of 140/86 to constitute hypertension. The trial commissioner fully addressed this issue in his decision. Specifically, the trial commissioner found that Dr. Zarich, who testified as an expert witness for the respondent, opined that it was medically reasonable for Dr. Rosenthal to consider a reading of 140/80 to be hypertensive in 1976. Moreover, Dr. Rosenthal specifically indicated on the pre-employment report that the claimant had “mod. hypertension.” Thus, the record supports the trial commissioner’s conclusion that the claimant’s pre-employment physical examination revealed evidence of hypertension.1

The trial commissioner’s decision is affirmed.

Commissioners Robin L. Wilson and Leonard S. Paoletta concur.

1 We thus need not address the issue of whether a § 7-433c claim may be dismissed on the basis of a blood pressure reading, taken at a pre-employment physical, which did not indicate hypertension under the medical standards at that time, but which would indicate hypertension under current medical standards. BACK TO TEXT

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