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Ferrara v. City of New Haven

CASE NO. 5107 CRB-3-06-6

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

JULY 30, 2008

DOROTHY FERRARA, Surviving Spouse of FRANK FERRARA

CLAIMANT-APPELLEE

v.

CITY OF NEW HAVEN

EMPLOYER

and

CIRMA

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS

and

SECOND INJURY FUND

RESPONDENT-APPELLEE

APPEARANCES:

The claimant was represented by Jeffrey S. Armas, Esq., and Edward M. Gillis, Esq., Gillis & Gillis, Two Whitney Avenue, Suite 502, New Haven, CT 06510-1269.

The respondents were represented by Jason M. Dodge, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, LLC, 95 Glastonbury Boulevard, Glastonbury, CT 06033.

The Second Injury Fund was represented by Kenneth Kennedy, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, 55 Elm Street, P.O. Box 120, Hartford, CT 06141-0120. However, the issue on appeal did not involve the Fund and therefore they did not file a brief or appear at oral argument.

This Petition for Review from the June 20, 2006 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Third District was heard June 27, 2008 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro and Commissioners Ernie R. Walker and Charles F. Senich.

OPINION

JOHN A. MASTROPIETRO, CHAIRMAN. The respondent-employer, City of New Haven, appeals from the June 20, 2006 Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Third District.1 In that Finding and Award, the commissioner found that the claimant who was the dependent spouse of Frank Ferrara, was entitled to benefits under § 31-306 C.G.S. in her capacity as a dependent spouse. Further, the trial commissioner concluded that the claimant was entitled to the continuation of group health benefits pursuant to § 31-284b C.G.S.

The pertinent facts giving rise to this claim are as follows. The claimant decedent was employed as a fire fighter for the respondent. On February 6, 1976 the decedent suffered a compensable myocardial infarction. Thereafter the decedent received temporary total benefits until his death on June 27, 2005. In the June 20, 2006 Finding and Award, the commissioner concluded, inter alia, that the decedent’s death was causally related to his compensable heart condition.

The claimant in her capacity as a dependent spouse filed a notice of claim seeking benefits under § 31-306 C.G.S. and payment of group health benefits pursuant to § 31-284b C.G.S. The commissioner awarded the claimant both benefits. The respondent employer filed this appeal. In its appeal the respondent asks whether the trial commissioner erred in awarding the claimant continuation of group health insurance benefits pursuant to § 31-284b C.G.S. We conclude that our Supreme Court’s opinion in Vincent v. New Haven, 285 Conn. 778 (2008) is dispositive of the issue raised.

In Vincent, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the issue of whether § 31-284b C.G.S. applied to those entitled to benefits under § 31-306 C.G.S. was a matter of statutory construction. The court then acknowledged that under §1-2z C.G.S. its first step in ascertaining the intended meaning of the statute was to review the text of the statute and determine the text’s relationship to other statutes. If the meaning is plain and unambiguous, examination of the Act’s legislative intent is unnecessary. The court held:

“Section 31-284b provides that an employer shall continue to “provide to [the] employee equivalent insurance coverage . . . while the employee is eligible to receive or is receiving . . . compensation . . . .” (Emphasis added.) General Statutes (Rev. to 1989) § 31-284b (a) . . . .Thus, § 31-284b (a) refers only to “employees” and contains no reference either to deceased employees or to their surviving dependents. Although § 31-306 does pertain to the surviving dependents of deceased employees, it does not mention or refer to health insurance. The plaintiff’s claim, therefore, derives no support from the statutory language on which that claim is predicated (Rev. to 1989) § 31-284b (a).(citations and footnotes omitted).

Id., 790-791.

Applying Vincent, supra to the instant matter compels the same result. We therefore reverse that portion of the June 20, 2006 Finding and Award awarding benefits pursuant to § 31-284b C.G.S. We note that the trial commissioner also found that the respondents unreasonably contested the claim for benefits pursuant to § 31-284b C.G.S. See Finding ¶ D. Having concluded as we have, we also vacate the trier’s conclusion that respondents unreasonably contested the issue. Thus, an attorney’s fee award pursuant to § 31-300 C.G.S. is not in order.

Commissioners Ernie R. Walker and Charles F. Senich concur.

1 We note during the pendency of this appeal, the parties requested that the matter be continued until such time as the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Vincent v. New Haven, 285 Conn. 778 (2008). BACK TO TEXT

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