This blog focuses almost exclusively on the Connecticut workers’ compensation law, but other laws at the state and federal level provide compensation for certain kinds of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. When two compensation statutes intersect, employers will often try to use the duplicate coverage to their advantage by arguing that the least generous set of benefits should control the case.
During the husband’s employment, he contracted a type of lung cancer that is usually attributable to asbestos exposure. In 2012, after learning of his diagnosis, the man filed a Connecticut workers’ compensation claim.
The man’s widow also filed claims for survivor’s benefits under the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, a federal statute aimed at providing death benefits to persons who contract an asbestos-related disease while working on federal projects. Those claims were decided in favor of the worker’s widow, including a finding that his disease and death were caused by asbestos exposure.
When the case reached the state Compensation Review Board, Electric Boat attempted to dispute the findings of causation and work-relatedness that had been made under the federal act. The widow argued that the federal decision awarding benefits conclusively determined these issues in her favor.
In a recent decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of the widow. It held that the legal rule of collateral estoppel gave decisive effect to the decision under the Harbor Workers’ Act. In other words, the federal decision in the woman’s favor could not be reopened in the state proceeding.
Anyone who is or may be eligible for benefits under a dual compensation scheme may wish to seek advice from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about the effect of this decision on their case.