State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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Barnes v. Waterbury Hospital

CASE NO. 4941 CRB-5-05-5

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

APRIL 7, 2006

JEAN BARNES

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

WATERBURY HOSPITAL

EMPLOYER

and

WEBSTER INSURANCE

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Law Offices of Laura M. Mooney, Esq., LLC, 203 Church Street, P.O. Box 702, Naugatuck, CT 06770.

The respondents were represented by William O’Donnell, Esq., Carmody & Torrance, 50 Leavenworth Street, P.O. Box 1110, Waterbury, CT 06721. The respondents informed the Compensation Review Board that the issue did not relate to them and therefore did not participate in oral argument before the board.

This Petition for Review from the April 26, 2005 Order from the Commissioner acting for the Fifth District was heard before a Compensation Review Board consisting of the Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro and Commissioners Stephen B. Delaney and Nancy E. Salerno.

OPINION

JOHN A. MASTROPIETRO, CHAIRMAN. The instant matter is an appeal from the imposition of sanctions against the claimant by the Commissioner acting for the Fifth District. In an Order dated April 26, 2005, the commissioner imposed a $250 sanction against the claimant pursuant to § 31-288(b) on the basis of claimant’s counsel’s failure to appear at a formal hearing held April 21, 2005.

The transcript of the April 21, 2005 formal hearing reflects a formal hearing was scheduled to be held on that date. The issues to be considered at the hearing were identified as medical treatment and total incapacity benefits. The transcript indicates that on or about April 6, 2005 claimant’s counsel faxed a letter to the Fifth District requesting that the formal hearing scheduled for April 21, 2005 be re-characterized as a pre-formal conference as the parties were interested in negotiating a stipulated settlement. Counsel’s letter then states, “Kindly advise whether the formal hearing can be marked ‘off’ and a pre-formal be scheduled in its place.”

The transcript reflects that no permission to mark off the April 21, 2005 formal hearing was granted. The trial commissioner then proceeded to impose a fine in the amount of $250 on the basis that counsel’s non-appearance at a duly noticed hearing resulted in undue delay. Following the April 26, 2006 Order imposing the $250 fine claimant’s counsel filed this appeal. The trial commissioner went on the record and articulated the basis for ordering sanctions.

The tenets of due process require that a party against whom sanctions are to be imposed shall be given an opportunity to be heard on the matter. Contemplated within the opportunity to be heard is the right to adequate notice. See Mullane v. Central Hanover Tr. Co., 339 U.S. 306 (1950) (due process requires opposing party to be given an opportunity to present their objections). Cf: State v. Perez, 276 Conn. 285 (2005) (due process requires court to afford notice and an opportunity to be heard before finding of professional misconduct).

Assuming arguendo the factual circumstances were as the trial commissioner understood them and recorded at the April 21, 2005 formal hearing, the appellant still should have been given adequate notice of the opportunity to address the issue of sanctions pursuant to § 31-288(b). While we appreciate the trier’s frustration and concern for judicial economy, compliance with traditional notions of due process require us to remand the instant matter. Mele v. City of Hartford, 4870 CRB-1-04-10 (September 29, 2005); Capozzo v. Milford Jai Alai, 4655 CRB-3-03-3 (March 26, 2004). The remand is for the purpose of providing the claimant with a meaningful opportunity to be heard before the commissioner on this issue.

We therefore vacate the commissioner’s order imposing sanctions and remand the instant matter for further proceedings for the purpose of giving the appellant an opportunity to be heard on the issue of sanctions pursuant to § 31-288(b).

Commissioners Stephen B. Delaney and Nancy E. Salerno concur.

Workers’ Compensation Commission

Page last revised: April 20, 2006

Page URL: http://wcc.state.ct.us/crb/2006/4941crb.htm

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