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Connecticut high court rules for injured worker in comp benefits dispute

Posted On: Aug. 1, 2018 1:59 PM CST

Connecticut high court rules for injured worker in comp benefits dispute

The Supreme Court of Connecticut on Tuesday reversed a state Compensation Review Board decision that ruled a car parts company did not have to continue to pay for one of their driver’s injuries after he sued a third party following an accident.

At issue in Patrick Callaghan v. Car Parts International L.L.C. is whether the driver, Mr. Callahan, who was awarded $100,000 in a third-party suit after he sued the party responsible for a wreck he was injured in while at work, can keep the statutory 30% of the lawsuit proceeds after reimbursing his employer for what was paid under workers compensation following his injury.

After paying attorney’s fees and Car Parts International’s share of the third-party lawsuit, Mr. Callahan was left with $22,000 and still needed medical care, which his employer denied, stating that this would constitute “double recovery,” according to court documents.

Car Parts claimed that a moratorium on the state law that dictated workers could receive a share of third-party lawsuits in workers comp injury cases would prevent them from paying for further medical care.

The state Supreme Court, highlighting in its ruling that workers compensation does not pay for “pain and suffering,” stated that the state law in Connecticut — adopted in 2011 — aimed to reward employees who sue third parties and to help insurers and employers recoup some money.

The ruling also cited comments by state Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Worcester, in support of the law that gives injured employees a share of third-party lawsuit proceeds, “observ(ing) that employees typically accept workers compensation benefits for injuries rather than pursuing responsible third parties. He explained, ‘if there is another, potential(ly) liable party, a third party, quite often those claims are tenuous and there really isn’t that much of a motivation for the injured party, the employee, to bring that case to seek redress, especially if — if (the employee) goes through the process of seeking redress (and) the (employer) that paid the workers compensation benefits gets most (or) all of the funds.’”

Stating that the employer failed to make a case for double recovery, the court reversed the decision of the Compensation Review Board, remanding it “to the board with direction to reverse the decision of the commissioner.”