Loehfelm v. Town of Stratford Board of Education
As the Connecticut Supreme Court explained in the 1926 case of Madore v. New Departure Manufacturing Company, "[t]he fact that injuries, whether from accident or disease, happen contemporaneously or coincidently with the employment affords no basis for an award under [Connecticut's Workers' Compensation Act.]" On March 24, 2008, Donna Loehfelm, employed as a tutor by the Town of Stratford Board of Education, fell while ascending a staircase at Bunnell High School. Loehfelm required medical treatment including back surgery. The trial commissioner dismissed Loehfelm's claim for workers' compensation benefits determining that while the fall occurred in the course of her employment, it did not arise out of her employment. The conclusion was based on findings that the claimant was involved in a motor vehicle accident and, as a result of injuries sustained in that accident, she underwent lumbar back surgery in Nov. 2007. The claimant returned to work on Feb. 20, 2008. She testified that her fall on March 24, 2008 was because her legs gave out and, while this was not the first time this had occurred, it was the first time they gave out to that extent. On appeal, she argued that the trial commissioner failed to apply established case law providing that the employer takes the claimant as he finds him. The Compensation Review Board affirmed the finding and dismissal. The board emphasized a reference to the 1916 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Hartz v. Hartford Faience Company that "one line of inquiry may be whether the employment developed the injury in any material degree." The trier's determination that the injury did not come within the Workers' Compensation Act was supported by the claimant's own testimony. The claimant also put into evidence the independent medical examination report of Dr. David Brown finding that the claimant sustained a 20 percent permanent partial impairment of the lumbar spine from the motor vehicle accident and that following her surgery her symptoms were not resolved and a second surgical procedure was required. The report fails to mention the claimant's fall or what effect it had on her worsening back symptoms. The commissioner had the discretion to accord whatever weight and credibility she deemed appropriate for this evidence.