CARL DZIENKIEWICZ v. DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, SC 18255
Compensation Review Board
Workers’ Compensation; Evidence; Whether Trial Commissioner Properly Declined to Admit State Medical Examining Board Report Stating that Plaintiff’s Stroke Presumptively Resulted from his Employment as a Correction Officer. The plaintiff was employed as a correction officer when he suffered a stroke in 2004. He subsequently filed a claim for benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (act) and General Statutes § 5-145a, which provides heart and hypertension benefits to qualifying state employees who work in certain hazardous occupations. The trial commissioner denied the plaintiff's claims, concluding that his claim for heart and hypertension benefits was untimely and that he could not prevail on his claim for benefits under the act because he had failed to establish that his employment as a correction officer was a substantial contributing factor to his stroke. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed an appeal with the workers' compensation review board, arguing that the trial commissioner improperly declined to admit a report from the state medical examining board, which stated that his stroke presumptively resulted from his duties as a correction officer and that he was therefore entitled to disability retirement benefits. He claimed that the report was relevant to the issue of whether his employment as a correction officer caused him to suffer the stroke. He further argued that the report constituted an admission from the department of correction that his stroke was a work-related illness and that it was therefore admissible as an admission by a party opponent. The compensation review board rejected the plaintiff's contentions and affirmed the trial commissioner's decision. In doing so, it concluded, among other things, that the medical examining board lacks the statutory authority to consider claims for workers' compensation benefits. It further determined that the medical examining board did not have the power to bind the department of correction, and, therefore, the report did not constitute a judicial admission, but was instead a mere evidential admission that could be disregarded by the trial commissioner. It also opined that the trial commissioner was not bound by the report under the doctrine of collateral estoppel because the medical examining board and the workers’ compensation commission utilize different standards to determine whether a claimant is entitled to benefits. Based upon the foregoing, the compensation review board concluded that the trial commissioner did not abuse his discretion in declining to consider the report. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the compensation review board properly affirmed the trial commissioner’s decision.