Santiago-Vivo v. City of Bridgeport
The legislative purpose behind the temporary partial disability benefit statute, C.G.S. §31-308(a), is to enable someone injured while working for a Connecticut employer, once they are released back to work, to receive benefits while working a light duty job in their local community and the term "locality" as described in Chapter 568 does not include a community in Florida. Maria Santiago-Vivo, injured while employed by the city of Bridgeport, sought partial disability benefits under C.G.S. §31-308(a) despite having relocated to Florida. The trial commissioner dismissed the claim concluding that the statute did not permit benefits to an injured worker who was not seeking work in their "locality," and that definition presumed that the claimant was still living in Connecticut. The claimant appealed challenging the commissioner's construction and application of the statute. The Compensation Review Board affirmed the finding and dismissal. The claimant contended that a floor statement in the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1967 when C.G.S. §31-308(a) was revised represents the expressed policy to compensate claimants with partial disability benefits irrespective of whether they continued to reside in Connecticut or not. The argument was not necessarily consistent with the direction expressed in C.G.S. §1-2z, which limits the board to the application of the "plain meaning" of a statute. Assuming, arguendo, that the phrase "in the same locality" was ambiguous permitting resort to extra-textual evidence as to the intent of the General Assembly, the board concluded that the public speakers in favor of the bill and legislative proponents, made no mention that the bill intended to compensate claimants living outside of Connecticut. Considering proponents' testimony, the term "same locality" was found not to apply to whatever location the claimant might choose to reside in, but rather stated that the claimant could obtain appropriate light duty work in the "same locality" as the previous employment without the loss of benefits. The terms of C.G.S. §31-308(a) were not sufficiently dissimilar to those in C.G.S. §31-308a, pertaining to post-specific benefits, to warrant a deviation from the clear and unequivocal policy delineated in the 2002 Connecticut Appellate Court case of McEnerney v. U.S. Surgical Corporation, upholding the denial of benefits to a plaintiff who relocated to Florida.