SHARON BROWN v. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, PRATT AND WHITNEY AIRCRAFT DIVISION et al., SC 18332
Compensation Review Board
Workers' Compensation; Whether Bar to Workers' Compensation Coverage for Injuries Resulting from Social-Recreational Activities, as set Forth in General Statutes § 31-275 (16) (B) (i), Applied to Preclude Coverage for Injury Plaintiff Sustained While Walking on Employer's Property During Unpaid Lunch Break. The plaintiff injured her shoulder when she fell on property of the defendant, her employer, while taking a walk during her unpaid lunch break. The workers' compensation commissioner found the plaintiff's injury to be compensable, but the compensation review board reversed the decision. The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court (112 Conn. App. 492), which determined that although the plaintiff's injury arose out of her employment and occurred in the course of her employment, the social-recreational exception of General Statutes § 31-275 (16) (B) (i) applied to preclude coverage for her injury. Pursuant to § 31-275 (16) (B) (i), a compensable injury does not include "[a]n injury to an employee that results from the employee's voluntary participation in any activity the major purpose of which is social or recreational, including, but not limited to, athletic events, parties and picnics, whether or not the employer pays some or all of the cost of such activity." The Appellate Court found the statute to be ambiguous as to whether the social-recreational exception encompasses walking, so it considered extra-textual evidence to ascertain the statute's meaning. The Appellate Court noted that the statute's legislative history showed that it was intended to apply to exclude voluntary participation in sporting activities regardless of the specific nature of the activity or whether the activity was a group or solitary activity. The Appellate Court also noted that the definition of "recreation" set forth in the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (2d ed. 2001), as "refreshment by means of . . . exercise . . . or other resource affording relaxation and enjoyment" supported excluding coverage for the plaintiff's injury because the plaintiff was undisputedly engaged in exercise when she voluntarily chose to spend her daily lunch breaks walking, the exercise was unquestionably solely for the plaintiff's benefit and there was no evidence that the defendant promoted the activity or encouraged its employees to participate. The Appellate Court also found support for its decision in case law from other jurisdictions. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the bar to workers' compensation coverage found within General Statutes § 31-275 (16) (B) (i) applied to preclude coverage for the plaintiff's injury.