BRIAN JONES v. TOWN OF REDDING, SC 18445
Compensation Review Board
Workers' Compensation; Heart and Hypertension Benefits; Whether Trial Commissioner Properly Determined that Stipulated Awards for Heart and Hypertension Benefits were Void Ab Initio on Ground that Plaintiff Never Qualified for Such Benefits Under General Statutes § 7-433c. Under General Statutes § 7-433c, the plaintiff police officer sought heart and hypertension benefits from his employer, the town of Redding. The plaintiff and the town ultimately stipulated to two awards, which, under the terms of the stipulation, were subject to the provisions of § 7-433c. Thereafter, the town filed a motion to modify the awards, arguing that pursuant to the workers' compensation review board's decision in Genesky v. East Lyme, No. 4600 CRB-8-02-12 (December 8, 2003), which was released shortly after the awards in the present matter were issued, the Redding police department did not constitute a "paid municipal police department" within the meaning of § 7-433c, and, therefore, the plaintiff was not entitled to heart and hypertension benefits. The trial commissioner determined that, under General Statutes § 31-315, the workers' compensation commission had continuing jurisdiction over the stipulated awards and that such awards were void ab initio in light of the fact that the plaintiff never qualified for benefits under § 7-433c. The trial commissioner further decided, however, that the matter should proceed as though the plaintiff had properly brought a claim for workers' compensation benefits pursuant to chapter 568 of the General Statutes. The town subsequently filed an appeal with the workers' compensation review board, claiming that the trial commissioner improperly transformed the plaintiff's claim for heart and hypertension benefits into one for benefits under chapter 568. The board initially determined that Genesky could not be invoked to modify the stipulated awards. It reasoned that Genesky did not clarify the scope of § 7-433c but that it simply reaffirmed a legal principle that had been espoused years earlier. It further decided that even if the Genesky holding clarified the reach of § 7-433c, it did not represent a "changed condition of fact" pursuant to § 31-315, which, the board opined, does not permit the modification of an award based simply upon a mistake of law. Moreover, the board emphasized that to the extent that Genesky changed the law, it could not be applied retroactively to the stipulated awards, which were no longer pending at the time that Genesky was released. It also determined that the awards could not be modified on the ground that they were void ab initio because the town had ample opportunity to raise the issue of subject matter jurisdiction prior to entering into the stipulated agreements. In light of the foregoing, the board reversed the trial commissioner's decision. It later rejected the town's claim, which was advanced in a motion for articulation, that the board improperly reversed the findings of the trial commissioner that were favorable to the town notwithstanding that the plaintiff failed to challenge those findings by way of an appeal or a cross appeal. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the board's conclusions were proper.