DAVID CIARLELLI v. TOWN OF HAMDEN et al., SC 18201
Compensation Review Board
Workers' Compensation; Whether the Claimant's Notice of Claim for Hypertension Benefits was Untimely; Whether Hypertension Should be Classified as a Repetitive Trauma Injury Rather than an Accidental Injury; Whether Proof of Disability Should be a Prerequisite to Filing a Claim Under the Heart and Hypertension Act. On May 20, 2004, a few days after being prescribed medication for hypertension by his doctor, the claimant, a police officer, filed a notice of claim for workers' compensation benefits pursuant to General Statutes § 7-433c, commonly referred to as the Heart and Hypertension Act. The respondent employer moved to dismiss the claimant's claim on the ground that the notice of claim was untimely under General Statutes § 31-294c, which requires that a notice of claim be filed within one year of the date of the accidental injury or the last incidence of exposure to repetitive trauma. The trial commissioner, relying on expert medical testimony, found that the claimant had "multiple hypertension blood pressure readings between December 2000 and March 2003." Thereafter, the commissioner dismissed the claimant's claim, ruling that the claimant's notice of claim was untimely under § 31-294c because it was not filed within one year after the onset of those readings. The claimant appealed from the commissioner's decision to the compensation review board. He first argued that, in Pearce v. New Haven, 76 Conn. App. 441 (2003), the Appellate Court improperly eliminated, for § 7-433c claims, the requirement that a disability exist before a claimant is required to file a notice of claim. Citing Hunt v. Naugatuck, 273 Conn. 97 (2005), and Arborio v. Windham Police Dept., 103 Conn. App. 172 (2007), the board, however, determined that it was settled law that a disability need not exist before a duty arises on the part of a claimant to file a notice of a § 7-433c claim. The claimant next argued that hypertension should be classified as a repetitive trauma injury rather than an accidental injury and, therefore, the timeliness of his notice should be measured from the date of his last exposure to repetitive trauma. Observing that a claimant need not prove that hypertension arose out of and in the course of employment in order to make a claim under § 7-433c, the board opined that hypertension does not satisfy the statutory definition of a repetitive trauma injury - an injury that is "causally connected with the employee's employment and is the direct result of repetitive trauma or repetitive acts incident to such employment." (Emphasis added.) General Statutes § 31-275 (16) (A). Thereafter, the board addressed whether the claimant's notice of claim was filed within the one year limitation period set forth in § 31-294c for accidental injury claims. The board observed that the claimant had received repeated advice about his elevated blood pressure readings in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 and had been advised about dietary and lifestyle changes. It then concluded that the claimant had enough information to know that he had hypertension prior to May 20, 2004, obligating him to file a notice of claim under § 31-294c. Accordingly, the board affirmed the commissioner's dismissal of the claimant's claim. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will review the board's decision.