CHRISTINE L. SAPKO v. STATE OF CONNECTICUT et al., SC 18680
Compensation Review Board
Workers' Compensation; Whether Decedent's Compensable Work Injuries were the Proximate Cause of his Death. Anthony Sapko was employed by the state department of correction at the time of his death on August 18, 2006. During the course of his employment, the decedent suffered work related injuries on four occasions from February, 2001, to May, 2006, which gave rise to compensable claims for workers' compensation benefits. Following the last incident, the decedent remained out of work and was prescribed various medications, including Oxycodone. The week prior to his death, the decedent's psychiatrist prescribed the drug Seroquel for the decedent's depression, for which he had been in treatment since 1999. According to the medical examiner's report, the decedent suffered an accidental death from multiple drug toxicity due to the interaction of excessive doses of Oxycodone and Seroquel. The decedent's wife filed a claim with the workers' compensation commission for survivor's benefits. The commissioner denied the claim, finding that the decedent's compensable work injuries were not the proximate cause of his death. The commissioner found that the testimony of the decedent's psychiatrist that the decedent had become more depressed as a result of his compensable injuries was not credible. The commissioner meanwhile credited the testimony of the medical examiner that the decedent's death was the result of an accidental overdose, as well as the testimony of a toxicologist that the dosage of Oxycodone was likely nonfatal unless mixed with the dosage of Seroquel. The compensation review board affirmed, finding that the commissioner's conclusion that the decedent's accidental ingestion of excessive quantities of prescribed medication broke the chain of proximate causation was supported by the evidence. The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court (123 Conn. App. 18), which affirmed the board's decision. The Appellate Court noted that, in the absence of any credible evidence tending to show that the decedent's depression and subsequent prescription for Seroquel were related to his compensable injuries, that he had committed suicide for some reason arising out of his compensable injuries or that the dosage of Oxycodone alone could have caused the decedent's death, the causal link between his compensable injuries and his death simply was too attenuated to support a reasonable inference that the injuries and death were connected. Upon the grant of certification, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly upheld the determination of the compensation review board that the decedent's compensable work injuries were not the proximate cause of his death.