4177 CRB-3-00-1 (2001). Horn v. State of Connecticut/Department of Correction.
|Case Date:||February 22, 2001|
Connecticut Workers Compensation 2001. 4177 CRB-3-00-1 (2001). Horn v. State of Connecticut/Department of Correction CASE NO. 4177 CRB-3-00-1COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION February 22, 2001ROBERT HORN CLAIMANT-APPELLANT v. STATE OF CONNECTICUT/DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION EMPLOYER SELF-INSURED RESPONDENT-APPELLEEAPPEARANCES: The claimant was represented by Robert Carter, Esq., Carter and Civitello, Woodbridge Office Park, One Bradley Road, Suite 301, Woodbridge, CT 06525. The Second Injury Fund was represented by Donna Hixon-Smith, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, 55 Elm Street, P. O. Box 120, Hartford, CT 06141-0120. This Petition for Review from the January 21, 2000 Corrected Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Third District was heard September 15, 2000 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro and Commissioners Leonard S. Paoletta and Ernie R. Walker. OPINION JOHN A. MASTROPIETRO, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review from the January 21, 2000 Corrected Finding and Award of the Commissioner acting for the Third District. He is challenging the trier's dismissal of his claim for § 5-145a C.G.S. benefits on several different grounds, most notably over the proper meaning of that statute's presumption of compensability. After careful consideration of these claims of error, we affirm the trial commissioner's decision.(fn1) Many of the facts relevant to our analysis of this appeal were recited in our December 16, 1998 opinion in Horn v. State/Dept. of Correction, 3727 CRB-3-97-11 (Horn I), and in the November 7, 1997 Finding and Award of the trial commissioner, which we affirmed in part and also reversed in part due to insufficient findings.(fn2) Indeed, the trier incorporated virtually all of his previous factual findings into the January 21, 2000 ruling that is on appeal here. In his initial decision, the trier found that the claimant was employed on both November 12, 1992 and November 20, 1992 as a deputy warden for the Department of Corrections. He took a physical examination upon entry into state service in 1975 that revealed no evidence of heart disease or hypertension. The claimant testified that he became a deputy warden in 1990, which position he found overwhelming due to his lack of special training and the overcrowded, frequently violent working conditions. The situation allegedly made him anxious, and he took up the habit of smoking. He also admitted to several other potential stressors that were centered in his personal life, such as financial difficulties and child support problems. During early November 1992, the claimant reportedly began feeling dizzy and nauseated, experiencing numbness in his left arm. On November 12, 1992, while in the jail office, he felt excruciating chest pain and more numbness in his arm. He was eventually diagnosed with dyspepsia and acute chest pain at Yale-New Haven Hospital, given Maalox, and told to return to the hospital if the pain recurred. It did so eight days later, and with severe intensity. This time, Dr. Chamberlain at Mount Sinai Hospital diagnosed him with an acute anterior wall myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure. The trial commissioner found that the claimant suffered a myocardial infarction, which kept him totally disabled until January 3, 1993. According to his findings, the trier was unpersuaded by the claimant's testimony as to workplace stress prior to November 1992, having noted that the claimant had not complained about his position or duties during the two years prior to his heart attack. "The evidence indicates that Claimant was under no particular job stress at that time but may have suffered stress from events in his personal life. There is ample evidence that Claimant experienced a stressful period immediately following his return to work in January of 1993, but that these conditions were not present during the period immediately prior to November of 1992." 1997 Findings, ¶ 37-B. Also, Robert Gillis, the warden of the jail, testified that he spent time with the claimant during his term of service, and that in conversation he had mentioned that he had been smoking for many years. Id., ¶ 17. Dr. Chamberlain reported that the claimant had suffered a transient thrombosis or vasospasm, the latter of which is most commonly precipitated by the use of cigarettes and by stress. He accordingly opined that workplace stress played a major role in the claimant's myocardial infarction; significantly, his diagnosis was partially based on the history of pre-infarction job stress that the claimant personally related to him. Id., ¶ 25. Dr. Silverstein, a cardiologist, examined the claimant on the respondent's behalf and came to the conclusion that cigarette smoking, rather than workplace stress, caused the claimant's attack. Dr. Silverstein did not believe that stress generally causes or is a significant factor in the development of heart attacks, and did not ask the claimant about it during their conversation. However, he acknowledged that there might be some situations in which stress could play a major role in the development of a myocardial infarction, and admitted that some other cardiologists do not share his views on the relationship between stress and heart attacks. Id., ¶ 30. Despite his lack of conviction that the claimant had indeed experienced a heart attack that was due to job stress, the trial commissioner originally concluded that the claimant was entitled to compensation for his medical bills, temporary total incapacity, and permanent partial impairment. "I . . . find that Claimant is one of the employees covered by C.G.S. 5-145a and is thus presumed to have suffered his myocardial infarction commencing on November 12, 1992 and continuing through November 20, 1992 during the performance of his...
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