JEAN O'CONNOR v. MED-CENTER HOME HEALTH, INC., et al., SC 18382
Compensation Review Board
Workers' Compensation; Appellate Jurisdiction; Whether Appellate Court Lacked Jurisdiction over Appeal from Decision of Workers' Compensation Commissioner Because Appellant Bypassed Review by Compensation Review Board. The claimant sustained a work related injury in 1996. In 2006, the workers' compensation commissioner issued an award, finding that the claimant was totally disabled and that she was entitled to reimbursement for mileage and prescription drug payments. The respondents appealed to the compensation review board, claiming, among other things, that the reimbursement order was improper because the claimant had not established by competent medical evidence that the expenses to be reimbursed were related to her injury. The board affirmed the award but remanded the matter to the commissioner for a determination as to the specific amounts to be reimbursed. The respondents appealed the board's order to the Appellate Court (first appeal). The Appellate Court dismissed that appeal for lack of jurisdiction because, in light of the remand to the commissioner for further non-ministerial proceedings as to the claimant's reimbursement, the board's decision was not an appealable final judgment. On remand, the commissioner established the amount of the claimant's reimbursement, and the respondents appealed directly to the Appellate Court, claiming that the board improperly affirmed the award of total disability benefits. The Appellate Court, on its own motion, dismissed the appeal on the ground that, under Fantasia v. Tony Pantano Mason Contractors, Inc., 54 Conn. App. 194 (1999), the respondents' failure to appeal to the board following the commissioner's award on remand deprived it of jurisdiction over the appeal. In Fantasia, the Appellate Court noted that General Statutes § 31-301b authorizes appeals to the Appellate Court only from decisions of the board and that, with the exception of discrimination claims under General Statutes § 31-290a (b), there is no statutory provision allowing an appeal to be taken directly from the commissioner to the Appellate Court. The Fantasia court further noted that where, after a remand from the board, non-ministerial proceedings have taken place before the commissioner, the board must be given an opportunity to ratify the results of the remand. The respondents in the present case argued that this appeal was not governed by Fantasia because the board's remand in their first appeal contemplated only ministerial proceedings and, therefore, should not have been dismissed because it had been taken from a final judgment. Upon the granting of certification, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly found that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal.