State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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Nelson v. State of Connecticut Judicial Department

CASE NO. 4783 CRB-7-04-2

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

OCTOBER 3, 2005

ROBERT W. NELSON

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

STATE OF CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT

EMPLOYER

SELF-INSURED

RESPONDENT-APPELLEE

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Scott McCarthy, Esq., and Jennifer Collins, Esq., Guensdelsberger & Taylor, 28 Park Lane, New Milford, CT 06776.

The respondent was represented by Kenneth Kennedy, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, 55 Elm Street, P.O. Box 120, Hartford, CT 06141-0120.

This Petition for Review from the February 4, 2004 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Seventh District was heard May 13, 2005 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro and Commissioners Stephen B. Delaney and Donald H. Doyle, Jr.

OPINION

JOHN A. MASTROPIETRO, CHAIRMAN. The claimant, Robert W. Nelson, has appealed from the February 4, 2004, Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Seventh District.1 We affirm the decision of the trial commissioner.

The pertinent facts of the case as found by the trial commissioner are as follows. The claimant was employed as a marshal and was on duty at the Danbury Superior Court courthouse on August 15, 2002. On that date the claimant went to the court’s holding cell in order to retrieve a prisoner to present before the court. When the claimant arrived at the cell door he observed the inmate shaking and wobbly on his feet. The inmate then collapsed and fell blocking the cell door. Thereafter, the claimant called for medical help and proceeded to enter the door which the inmate’s body had fallen against. Upon entering the cell the claimant discovered the inmate was in a pool of blood. The claimant dragged him away from the door to allow the medics, who were en route, to gain access and administer medical assistance. Apparently the inmate had cut his wrists in a suicide attempt. The claimant experienced back pain while dragging the inmate away from the cell door.

The respondent accepted the claimant’s work injury claim and has provided medical treatment and Chapter 568 benefits to him. The issue in the proceedings below was the claimant’s entitlement to the full pay provisions set out in § 5-142(a) C.G.S. The trial commissioner found the claimant’s injury was not a result of any special hazard inherent to the claimant’s job as a marshal and therefore, dismissed the claim for § 5-142(a) benefits.

The claimant appeals the Finding and Dismissal contending that under the facts of the case the claimant is entitled to full pay while he is totally incapacitated. Section 5-142(a) provides full salary benefits to “any member of the Division of State Police within the Department of Public Safety or of any correctional institution . . . [who] sustains any injury (1) while . . . in the actual performance of such police duties or guard duties, or while attending or restraining an inmate of any such institution or as a result of being assaulted in the performance of his duty and (2) that is a direct result of the special hazards inherent in such duties.” The claimant is a member of the class of employees protected by the statute. Whether the claimant injured himself as a result of a special hazard inherent in his duties was the issue in the proceedings below.

In the claimant’s view, under this board’s reasoning in Hudson v. State/Dept. of Correction, 4582 CRB-3-02-11 (October 31, 2003) the trial commissioner’s decision must be reversed. In Hudson, supra, this board affirmed the trial commissioner’s award of § 5-142(a) benefits in a case where a correctional officer intervened when an inmate attempted to hang himself. In that case, the inmate was found conscious and in order to stop the progress of the suicide the officer had to lift the inmate to relieve pressure around the inmate’s airway. The board reasoned that the act of restraining an inmate in order to prevent his suicidal fall was within the special hazards that the statute was meant to address.

The board in Hudson, supra, distinguished the case from Johnson v. State/Dept. of Correction, 4162 CRB-1-99-12 (Jan. 25, 2001), aff’d, 67 Conn. App. 330 (2001), cert. granted, 259 Conn. 924 (2002)(appeal withdrawn March 28, 2002). In Johnson, a correctional officer was injured when an inmate who was coming out of the shower stumbled and grabbed hold of him. The claimant seized the inmate and restrained him as he had been trained to do in assault situations, however, the claimant explained that his reaction was instinctive and in retrospect he believed the inmate’s actions were the result of an accident rather than any action taken with malice or intent. The board in Johnson, reversed the trial commissioner’s determination that the accident was compensable under § 5-142(a) reasoning that “almost any employee in any business might be placed in the unexpected situation of having to break someone’s fall when the other person loses her balance.” The board found that there was no evidence in the record that the act of catching a falling person who slipped was an “especially hazardous aspect of a state prison guard’s job.”

The factual findings of the trial commissioner will stand unless they are without evidence, contrary to law or based on impermissible or unreasonable factual inferences. Fair v. People’s Savings Bank, 207 Conn. 535, 539 (1988). The trier explained, “almost any employee in any business, or, indeed, any individual in ordinary everyday circumstances, could be called upon to assist a fallen individual-whether as a result of a fainting episode, a fall on ice episode, a motor vehicle accident or any of a number of daily occurring experiences.” Findings, ¶ B. The trier therefore reasoned that the accident was not a result of a special hazard pursuant to § 5-142(a).

In this case we do not believe that the claimant’s injury fits neatly into the facts of Johnson, supra or in Hudson, supra. For this reason we will defer to the commissioner’s factual findings. The claimant here was moving the inmate after the suicide attempt. The claimant was not preventing or stopping the suicide nor was he restraining the prisoner. Under this factual scenario we believe a trial commissioner could reasonably find that the claimant’s injury is outside of the special hazards provisions of § 5-142(a). For these reasons, we find the trier’s conclusions are reasonable.

Therefore, we affirm the trial commissioner’s findings.

Commissioners Stephen B. Delaney and Donald H. Doyle, Jr. concur.

1 We note that two requests for continuances of the oral argument of this appeal were granted. BACK TO TEXT

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