Duarte v. Franstel of CT Corporation
To prove that an employee is exempt from workers' compensation coverage under C.G.S. §31-275(9)(B)(ii) as a casual employee, a respondent must establish that "the claimant's employment was not frequent or systematic and that it was not for the purposes of the respondent's trade or business," as explained in the 2006 Compensation Review Board decision in Mangual v. Andrew LeBlanc d/b/a/ Express Tiles. The trial commissioner's findings included the following facts. Jesus Alvarado, employed by the respondent, Franstel of CT Corp., following a request by Frank Serpe, the respondent's owner, asked the claimant, Roberto Duarte, to work with him on a job removing tree branches. Duarte and Alvarado went to Serpe's home. Serpe only accompanied them to get gas in the truck. Alvarado and Duarte picked up needed equipment at Serpe's garage and went to the job site. While cutting tree branches, Duarte fell 40 feet from a ladder and was injured. Serpe disputed the facts including Alvarado's authority to subcontract employees. The trial commissioner found Duarte and Alvarado's testimony more persuasive and credible than that of Serpe. The commissioner determined that Alvarado was authorized to act as the respondent's agent to hire Duarte and that the injuries arose out of and in the course of Duarte's employment with the respondent which lacked a workers' compensation policy. The commissioner ordered the respondent to pay benefits associated with the injury. The respondent appealed raising multiple claims of error. The Compensation Review Board found no error and affirmed the decision. The respondent's challenge to the factual findings and determination that an employer-employee relationship existed failed. Although the respondent pointed to the minimal interactions between Serpe and Duarte, the trier specifically found that Alvarado was authorized to act as Serpe's agent in hiring Duarte. The respondent also argued that the claimant was, at best, an exempt casual employee. The record illustrated that Duarte's employment with the respondent was neither frequent nor systematic. But, the exemption's second prong was unmet. The commissioner found that the tree cutting was not so removed from the core functions of the respondent's landscaping business. Although Serpe testified that his business did not engage in tree-cutting, the commissioner found otherwise.