Clock and Heart Run Out on Worker’s Compensation Claim SW Legal Educational Publishing

Clock and Heart Run Out on Worker’s Compensation Claim
Description Employee did not know his heart attack may have been job related until after the statute of limitations expired. Connecticut Supreme Court holds firm on time limitations for filing workers’ compensation claim. Heart attack was probably not job related anyway. (Updated 10-3-97)
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Workers’ Compensation; Statute of Limitations; Covered Injuries
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Discuillo’s "responsibilities required him to climb ladders and to work on scaffolding while carrying five gallon buckets of paint and heavy pneumatic grinding equipment." He was "in constant fear of losing his job because of his inability to keep up with the speed at which younger coworkers accomplished the same work." One day, after work, he suffered a heart attack and was not able to return to work. He did not file for workers’ compensation because he presumed it did not apply. Two years later, when he read about a worker awarded compensation for a heart attack held related to job stress, he applied for compensation. The employer contested the claim, asserting that the heart attack did not arise out of employment and that the claim was barred by the one year statute of limitations.
Lower Court Decision The workers’ compensation commissioner held the heart attack did arise in the course of employment and that the clock did not begin to run on the statute of limitations until Discuillo understood the causal relationship between the heart attack and job stress, which did not happen until he read the article about the other case. The compensation review board reversed, holding that the heart attack was an accident not caused by job stress and that, in any event, the clock began to run from the time of the attack, so he was time barred from any claim. The appellate court affirmed. Discuillo appealed.
Supreme Court Decision Affirmed. The statute is clear that claims must be filed within a year of the occurrence of the injury or disease related to employment. The statute provides three categories of compensable injuries:
  1. accidental injury;
  2. repetitive trauma injury; and
  3. occupational disease.
This heart attack was not a disease "peculiar to the occupation" such as contracting a disease from patients when working at a hospital. The stresses in this case were normal to the employment and there was no accident on the job. This might be closest to repetitive trauma injury, but, in any event, there was not timely filing.
Citation Discuillo v. Stone and Webster, 242 Conn. 570 (Sup. Ct., Conn., 1997)

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