Sep 14 2018

CT Law Update September 2018

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Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act – Compensability
Authored by: Alessandra Carullo

Clements v. Aramark Corp., 182 Conn. App. 224 (2018).  On appeal from the Workers’ Compensation Review Board, the issue was compensability, under General Statutes § 31-275, of an injury to an employee that occurred on the employer’s premises when the employee became lightheaded, fell, and hit her head on the ground while walking to her work station before the start of her shift.  The Board held that because the plaintiff’s fall was caused by her personal infirmity, rather than a workplace condition, her resultant head injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment within the meaning of the Workers’ Compensation Act.  The Appellate Court disagreed and reversed the Board’s decision, holding that although the plaintiff’s personal infirmity, which caused her to fall, did not arise out of her employment, the resultant injuries that were caused by her head hitting the ground at her workplace did arise out of her employment, and thus would be compensable under the Act. 

Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act – Moratorium
Authored by: Kaelah M. Smith 

Callaghan v. Car Parts International, LLC, 329 Conn. 564 (2018).  The Connecticut Supreme Court considered the extent of an employer’s right to a credit against its obligation to pay workers’ compensation benefits for an injured employee when the employee has already recovered damages from a third-party tortfeasor who caused the injuries.  The employee had settled his third-party action against the tortfeasor, but later needed further medical treatment.  The Supreme Court held that a moratorium did not apply to the proceeds the employee had received from the statutory one-third reduction of the employer’s claim, because applying the moratorium in favor of the employer would require the employee to use those proceeds in lieu of further worker’s compensation benefits that otherwise would be paid by the employer.  Such a result would shift the statutory benefit from the employee to the employer, which would undermine the plain text of the statute.  The Supreme Court also held that there was no danger of a double recovery for an employee, as the legislature had abrogated any chance of a double recovery by permitting an employer to avoid the imposition of a one-third by bringing an action directly against the tortfeasor.

 Underinsured Motorist Benefits – Invalidity Of Exclusion
Authored by: Tiffany L. Sabato

Tannone v. Amica Mutual Insurance Co., 329 Conn. 665 (2018).  The plaintiffs settled their claims against the driver of the rental vehicle and then brought suit against their automobile insurer for underinsured motorist benefits.  The insurer had argued that the rental car company had a “self-insured” designation from the Insurance Commissioner, and invoked a related exclusion within the policy.  Noting that the Graves Amendment, which preempts Connecticut state law, prevented the plaintiffs from suing the rental car company under the facts of the case, the Supreme Court observed that the exclusion essentially barred the plaintiffs from any recovery whatsoever for their injuries beyond the coverage of the driver’s policy.  The Supreme Court held the exclusion to be invalid, finding it to be inconsistent with public policy.

Uninsured Motorist Benefits – Identification Of Tortfeasor
Authored by: Brian M. Gibbons

Arroyo v. State Farm Fire and Casualty, Superior Court of Connecticut, 2018 WL 2138603.  At the scene of a two-vehicle accident, the responding police officer had apparently recorded the drivers’ names, addresses, and insurance information.  The at-fault driver assured one of the plaintiffs that he was covered by insurance.  However, the officer left his employment shortly thereafter and never filed his report.  The plaintiffs had not personally obtained any information from at-fault driver, and therefore did not know his identity.  The plaintiffs’ insurer had denied their claims for uninsured motorist benefits on the basis that the plaintiffs had not pursued, let alone exhausted, the tortfeasor’s liability insurance.  However, the court ruled that the plaintiffs could proceed with their uninsured motorist claims.  Although the plaintiffs had a duty to make reasonable efforts to establish the tortfeasor’s insurance status, the court found it reasonable under the circumstances for them to rely on the officer to obtain this information and file his report.  

Breach of Contract – Measure of Damages
Authored by: Eva M. Kolstad

Gawecki v. Grecki Paving, Inc., Superior Court of Connecticut, 2018 WL 3712934.  In a dispute over a residential construction project, the defendant paving company was found to have breached its contract with the plaintiff homeowner.  The plaintiff had argued that the defendant should be responsible for an amount of damages that would pay for a driveway paving project of the type for which the plaintiff had contracted, but which the defendant had failed to complete.  The court, however, found the measure of damages is not what it would cost to install a new “deluxe” driveway, but rather the amount the plaintiff already paid the defendant for its substandard work.  While the court also ruled that the defendant had breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by knowingly using substandard materials, it did not award the plaintiff any additional damages as such damages would be identical to those already recovered due the defendant’s breach of contract.  

 Medical Malpractice
Authored by: Kyle W. Deskus 

Labissoniere v. Gaylord Hosp., Inc., 182 Conn. App. 445 (2018).  The plaintiff’s estate appealed from the granting of a motion to dismiss a medical malpractice action, arguing that the trial court inappropriately considered extrinsic evidence and further arguing that jurisdiction had been established by the allegations that the defendant internal medicine physicians engaged in off-specialty practice within the field of surgery.  In its complaint, the estate had alleged that the internists and a rehabilitation hospital failed to diagnose a retroperitoneal hematoma that developed after the decedent’s hip surgery.  The Appellate Court upheld the dismissal and ruled that evidence may be used in medical malpractice actions to supplement the allegations of the complaint upon a motion to dismiss.  Further, the Court emphasized that general practitioners, like internal medicine physicians, are routinely called upon to diagnose a myriad of conditions falling within a variety of specialties, and thus, the internists’ treatment of a hematoma subsequent to a hip surgery did not within itself establish that the internists were practicing outside of their specialty. 

Civil Procedure - Use of Deposition Transcripts
Authored by: Christina Canales 

Teodoro v. Town of Bristol, 184 Conn. App. 363  (2018).  On appeal, the plaintiff challenged the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment without considering excerpts from the certified deposition transcripts of two witnesses.  The evidence disregarded by the trial court consisted of the deposition cover pages, the court reporter’s certification pages, and the deponents’ certification pages.  The trial court had opined that the materials were not properly authenticated and did not constitute “certified transcripts of testimony under oath” as required under the Practice Book.  On this issue of first impression, the Connecticut Appellate Court analyzed the purpose of the authentication requirement and found that it is simply intended to make a preliminary showing that the certified transcripts accurately record testimony that the witnesses gave under oath.  In reversing the trial court, the Appellate Court found that the certification page of the original certified deposition transcript is sufficient to authenticate excerpts where accompanied by other portions of the transcript which tend to establish that the testimony was given under oath and accurately transcribed. 

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