WILLIAM D. HART v. FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, et al., SC 19523

Compensation Review Board

 

      Workers’ Compensation; Whether Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Properly Found to be Compensable Mental Injury Arising from Physical Injury; Whether Heart Condition a Compensable Injury Arising from Employment.  The defendant Federal Express employed the plaintiff as a courier, a job that involved picking up and delivering packages while driving an assigned route.  On September 15, 2009, the plaintiff fell ill on the job.  He was taken to a hospital after his heart rate was found to be over 200 beats per minute, and he was diagnosed with abnormal heart activity.  He received follow-up care from a cardiologist and a primary care physician, who advised him not to return to work.  The plaintiff also began receiving psychiatric treatment, and doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), opining that it stemmed from the plaintiff’s disability and his fear of future cardiac episodes.  The plaintiff sought workers’ compensation benefits for both the heart condition and the PTSD.  The trial commissioner found that both the heart condition and the PTSD were compensable in that they both arose out of the plaintiff’s employment with the defendant.  The commissioner found that the plaintiff’s workload and resultant stress on September 15, 2009 proximately caused his heart condition and that the plaintiff’s PTSD was proximately caused by the heart condition and the September 15, 2009 cardiac episode.  The Compensation Review Board affirmed the trial commissioner’s decision.  The defendant appeals, claiming that the plaintiff’s PTSD was not compensable because it did not arise out of a physical injury as contemplated by General Statutes § 31-275 (16) (B) (ii).  Rather, the defendant claims that the evidence showed that the PTSD was caused by the plaintiff’s fear of losing his job and accordingly that it was non-compensable under § 31-275 (16) (B) (iii), which provides that “[a] mental or emotional impairment that results from a personnel action” does not constitute an “injury” under the Workers’ Compensation Act.  The defendant also contends that evidence did not support the finding that the plaintiff’s heart condition arose out of the plaintiff’s employment and that, standing alone, the finding that the plaintiff’s delivery schedule was stressful could not support the award here.  Finally, the defendant claims that the plaintiff was wrongly found to be entitled to temporary total disability benefits from September 16, 2009 through August 7, 2010, noting, among other things, that the plaintiff returned to the gym just two weeks after the September 15, 2009 cardiac incident.