DANIEL D'AMICO v. ACE FINANCIAL SOLUTIONS, INC., et al., SC 18678

Judicial District of New Britain

 

Workers' Compensation; Exclusivity Provision; Whether the Exclusivity Provision of the Workers' Compensation Act Applies to Independent Third Parties. The plaintiff was awarded workers' compensation benefits in connection with various injuries that he sustained in the course of his employment as a correction officer for the state. Pursuant to General Statutes 4a-25a, the state transferred its responsibility for the administration of the plaintiff's workers' compensation claim to the named defendant, ACE Financial Solutions, Inc. (ACE). The plaintiff subsequently initiated this civil action against ACE, alleging, among other things, that it had engaged in misconduct in the processing of his workers' compensation claim. ACE filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff's action was barred by the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act, General Statutes 31-284 (a). The trial court agreed and granted the motion. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the exclusivity provision did not apply to ACE because, as an entity that assumed the responsibility for the administration of his workers' compensation claim pursuant to 4a-25a, it was merely an "independent third party" within the meaning of that statute. The Appellate Court (122 Conn. App. 230) disagreed with the plaintiff and affirmed the trial court's judgment. In doing so, it determined that the issue on appeal was governed by the Supreme Court's decision in DeOliveira v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 273 Conn. 487 (2005), which held that the exclusivity provision barred a cause of action against an insurer for the bad faith processing of a workers' compensation claim. The Appellate Court emphasized that under DeOliveira, an action for injuries arising out of and in the course of the workers' compensation claims process is barred by the exclusivity provision. It further opined that although the exclusivity provision states that an employee may not bring a civil action against an employer for job related injuries, DeOliveira and its progeny have extended the provision's protections to insurers and third party administrators in the context of the workers' compensation claims process. Accordingly, the Appellate Court held that, because it was clear that the alleged injuries attributable to ACE arose out of and in the course of the workers' compensation claims process, the exclusivity provision barred the plaintiff's action even if the defendant was an "independent third party." In this appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court's decision was correct.