ANDRE A. VEILLEUX v. COMPLETE INTERIOR SYSTEMS, INC., et al., SC 18232
Compensation Review Board
Workers' Compensation; Timeliness of Notice of Claim under General Statutes § 31-294c; To Establish that the Three Year Limitation Period of § 31-294c Applied to his Claim of Repetitive Trauma Injury, did the Plaintiff have to Prove that the Injury was an Occupational Disease or Merely Show that it "More Closely Resembled" an Occupational Disease than an Accidental Injury? While the plaintiff was employed as a carpenter for the defendants, he suffered a compensable lower back injury. Following an MRI in November of 2003, the plaintiff's treating physician for the back injury determined that the plaintiff suffered from cervical myelopathy, a condition where the spinal cord gets compressed in the neck. The plaintiff claims that was his first knowledge of any cervical injury and of its possible relationship to his work as a drywall installer, which involved carrying drywall on his head and holding it in place with his head while he installed it on ceilings. In March of 2004, the plaintiff filed a Form 30C with the workers' compensation commission, which asserted a repetitive trauma claim for the cervical spine injury and represented that the plaintiff was last injured in February of 2002. The commissioner dismissed the plaintiff's claim, finding that it was jurisdictionally barred under General Statutes § 31-294c because the plaintiff failed to file his Form 30C within one year of sustaining the repetitive trauma injury. Pursuant to § 31-294c, "[n]o proceedings for compensation . . . shall be maintained unless a written notice of claim for compensation is given within one year from the date of the accident or within three years from the first manifestation of a symptom of the occupational disease, as the case may be, which caused the personal injury." In applying the one year, rather than the three year, limitation period, the commissioner explained that the plaintiff had not established that his neck compression injury rose to the level of an occupational disease. The plaintiff appealed to the compensation review board, claiming that the commissioner applied the wrong standard in determining whether the limitation period for accidental injury rather than occupational disease applied. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that Discuillo v. Stone & Webster, 242 Conn. 570 (1997), required the commissioner to make a specific finding as to whether, for jurisdictional purposes only, his repetitive trauma injury "more closely resembled" an accidental injury or an occupational disease. In his case, he contended, the commissioner found that he had not proven that injury was actually an occupational disease. The board affirmed the commissioner's decision, finding no support in the plain meaning of the statute, in Discuillo, or in other appellate case law for the premise that a lesser standard exists for satisfying the jurisdictional notice requirements than for proving the substantive requirements for a claim for benefits. The plaintiff challenges the board's decision in this appeal before the Supreme Court.