CASE NO. 4858 CRB-4-04-9
COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION
SEPTEMBER 7, 2005
MARY CAPEZZALI, Dependent widow of ANTHONY CAPEZZALI, Deceased
CITY OF BRIDGEPORT
The claimant was represented by David J. Morrissey, Esq., Morrissey & Morrissey, LLC, 203 Church Street, P.O. Box 31, Naugatuck, CT 06770.
The respondent was represented by Marie E. Gallo-Hall, Esq., Montstream & May, LLP, Salmon Brook Corporate Park, 655 Winding Brook Drive, P.O. Box 1087, Glastonbury, CT 06033-6087.
The Second Injury Fund was represented at the trial level by Richard Hine, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, 55 Elm Street, P.O. Box 120, Hartford, CT 06141-0120. The Second Injury Fund did not participate with the proceedings on appeal.
This Petition for Review from the August 24, 2004 Finding & Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Fourth District was heard March 18, 2005 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro and Commissioners Stephen B. Delaney and Michelle D. Truglia.
JOHN A. MASTROPIETRO, CHAIRMAN. The claimant, Mary Capezzali, dependent widow of Anthony Capezzali, deceased claimant, has filed a timely appeal from the August 24, 2004 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Fourth District. We affirm the decision of the trial commissioner.
The pertinent facts found are as follows. On June 15, 1964 the decedent was a member of the City of Bridgeport Police Department when he suffered a work-related myocardial infarction while chasing suspects during the course of his duties. The decedent continued to work for the respondent-employer until he retired in 1977. A Finding and Award was issued on June 19, 1979 that found the decedent was totally disabled due to heart disease and depression connected to and aggravated by his heart disease and ordered temporary total disability benefits be paid from the date of retirement in 1977.
Most of the decedent’s life he suffered with periods of anxiety, insomnia and depression. The decedent had been treated for depression by Dr. Ciro Veneruso, a psychiatrist, for approximately nine months between 1968 through 1987. Dr. Veneruso treated the decedent sporadically between 1987 and 1991 but did not treat him again until September 24, 1994. The record indicates the decedent attempted to commit suicide in May of 1987. Additionally, he underwent a period of inpatient psychiatric treatment at St. Vincent’s Medical Center from May 18, 1987 through June 17, 1987 and another period of inpatient treatment at the same facility from May 12, 1995 through May 22, 1995. Dr. Veneruso did not treat the claimant during his 1995 inpatient treatment. The notes from St. Vincent’s Medical Center from the 1995 inpatient period do not mention any of the decedent’s cardiac concerns. After the second period of inpatient treatment the decedent was referred to Dr. Veneruso for outpatient treatment at the DePaul Clinic. On June 15, 1995 the decedent committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot.
There were conflicting medical opinions regarding the cause of the decedent’s suicide. Dr. Veneruso opined that decedent’s cardiac condition was catastrophic to him. He believed the decedent’s depression and concern over his physical condition were the reasons the decedent took his life. July 24, 2003 Transcript, p. 30. Dr. Mark Rubinstein, a psychiatrist, performed a medical records review for the respondent after the decedent passed away. Dr. Rubinstein opined that the claimant’s suicide was not related to the 1964 myocardial infarction, but instead “was the culmination of a life-long struggle with depression.” Findings, ¶ 85. Dr. Rubinstein reviewed the medical records from the claimant’s 1995 hospitalization, which occurred shortly before the decedent’s death. Dr. Rubinstein indicated that the medical records discussed the decedent’s severe insomnia, his disability from the prior suicide attempt, his regret, his ankle injury and his wife’s motor vehicle accident, however, there is no discussion of a cardiac condition as a stressor during that hospitalization.
The trier found that “[t]he decedent’s suicide was not causally related to his 1964 myocardial infarction and period of depression associated with that condition, but was related to his life-long struggles with insomnia, depression and other stressors that were not related to his heart.” Findings, ¶ O. The claimant appealed the Finding and Dismissal contending that the trier erred in assigning greater weight to the respondent’s medical review examiner than to the decedent’s treating physician.
We initially note, the claimant did not file a Motion to Correct the trier’s findings pursuant to Admin. Reg. § 31-301-9. If such a motion had been filed, the trial commissioner would have had the opportunity to reconsider those findings based on evidence the claimant believes the trier may have misinterpreted or overlooked. Bombardier v. CT Valley Fitness Center, 4475 CRB-6-02-1 (November 20, 2002). Thus, we are limited to the extant factual findings. Soto-Velez v. Michael’s Chrysler Plymouth, 4628 CRB-2-03-2 (February 3, 2004). There is nothing in the record that would indicate to us that the trier’s findings as they stand were contrary to the law or based on unreasonable or impermissible inferences, therefore, we must necessarily affirm the trier’s dismissal.
We note that even if the claimant had filed a Motion to Correct the findings we would likely still reach the same conclusion. On review, this board lacks the authority to retry a case by second guessing a commissioner’s credibility determinations. Fair v. People’s Savings Bank, 207 Conn. 535, 539 (1988); Carney-Bastrzycki v. Hospital for Special Care, 4722 CRB-6-03-9 (September 3, 2004). In order to prevail on her claim the claimant needed to prove that the decedent’s work-related injuries were a substantial cause of his suicide. Dixon v. United Illuminating Co., 57 Conn. App. 51, 60 (2000); Hurd v. United Methodist Homes, 3358 CRB-4-96-5 (April 1, 1998). A trier is entitled to credit any medical opinion that is stated with a reasonable degree of medical probability. Strong v. UTC/Pratt & Whitney, 4563 CRB-1-02-8 (August 25, 2003); Phaiah v. Danielson Curtain (C.C. Industries), 4409 CRB-2-01-6 (June 7, 2002). The trial commissioner is not bound by a treating physician’s opinion. Bratchell v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 3637 CRB-7-97-7 (August 10, 1998). Here, the trial commissioner chose to credit Dr. Rubinstein’s opinion. The trier also relied on the fact that the claimant’s last psychiatric inpatient records in May 1995 made no mention of concerns relating to his cardiac condition. Although the claimant contends that Dr. Veneruso was better situated to make an opinion regarding the cause of the decedent’s suicide, we note that the record indicates that Dr. Veneruso did not treat the claimant regularly and his treatment did not coincide with a significant portion of the period immediately prior to the claimant’s suicide. We see no error with the trial commissioner’s reliance on Dr. Rubinstein’s opinion.
This is a very difficult case with a tragic outcome. We as individuals have sympathy for the loss sustained by the claimant. However, our ability to provide a remedy is limited to the confines of the Workers’ Compensation Act and our role as an appellate body. That being said, we see no reason to overturn the trier’s findings.
Therefore, we affirm the August 24, 2004 Finding and Dismissal of the Commissioner acting for the Fourth District.
Commissioners Stephen B. Delaney and Michelle D. Truglia concur.