JOHN A. CARTER v. TOWN OF CLINTON, SC 18200
Compensation Review Board
Workers' Compensation; Whether the Claimant's Notice of Claim for Heart and Hypertension Benefits was Untimely; Whether the Claimant Satisfied the Medical Care Exception to the Filing of a Timely Notice of Claim. On October 2, 1996, during the course of his employment, the claimant, a police officer, injured his shoulder. He also reported a sense of going into shock, dizziness and crushing pain. The injury to the claimant's shoulder was diagnosed as a muscle tear. The claimant later retired from the police force. On April 5, 2000, the claimant suffered an acute myocardial infarction and subsequently underwent bypass surgery. On June 20, 2001, the claimant filed a notice of claim for workers' compensation benefits pursuant to General Statutes § 7-433c, 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 (a), which requires that a notice of claim be filed within one year of the date of the accidental injury. The trial commissioner granted the respondent’s motion to dismiss, and the claimant appealed to the compensation review board. The claimant first claimed that the one year statute of limitations in § 31-294c (a) was tolled because, on October 2, 1996, he suffered a cardiac event, and that his symptoms were misdiagnosed as a shoulder injury. He, therefore, maintained that his June 20, 2001 notice of claim was timely filed. The board assumed, without deciding, that acquisition of knowledge after retirement that prior symptoms of pain were related to heart disease would be sufficient to toll the statute of limitations for a § 7-443c claim. Thereafter, noting that the claimant suffered a heart attack in April, 2000, the board concluded that, even under that scenario, the claimant’s notice of claim was untimely on its face because the claimant knew or should have known that his 1996 pain symptoms may have been related to coronary artery disease over one year prior to June 20, 2001. Next, the claimant argued that, because the respondent furnished him with medical treatment for the October 2, 1996 injury, which he claimed included symptoms of angina, he satisfied the medical care exception to the notice requirement set forth in § 31-294c (c). The board noted that, according to the commissioner, there was no causal connection between the October 2, 1996 lifting incident and the claimant’s April 5, 2000 myocardial infarction. The board further observed that, although there was expert testimony that the claimant's October 2, 1996 symptoms were both orthopedic and anginal, it was apparent that the commissioner was not persuaded by that testimony in light of his refusal to correct his findings to reflect that coronary artery disease caused some of the 1996 symptoms. Thereafter, the board ruled that, absent a finding that the injury for which the claimant was treated on October 2, 1996 included symptoms of coronary artery disease, the medical care exception could not be used to toll the statute of limitations for filing a claim under § 7-433c. Accordingly, the board affirmed the commissioner’s decision. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will review the board's decision.