PETER BALLOLI v. CITY OF NEW HAVEN et al., SC 19584

Compensation Review Board

 

      Workers' Compensation; Whether Compensation Review Board Properly Found that Police Officer’s Injury was not Compensable Because Injury Occurred Before Officer had Departed his Place of Abode.  On October 25, 2012, the claimant, a Waterbury police officer, left his house in Southington to go to work.  The claimant went to his car, which was parked on the street in front of his house, and injured his back when he stooped to pick up his dropped car keys.  He sought workers' compensation benefits, claiming that his injury arose out of and in the course of his employment.  Under General Statutes § 31-275 (1) (A) (i), “in the course of employment” encompasses a police officer's “departure from such individual's place of abode to duty.”  “Place of abode,” as defined in § 31-275 (1) (F), “includes the inside of the residential structure, the garage, the common hallways, stairways, driveways, walkways and the yard . . . .”  The trial commissioner dismissed the claim, and the Compensation Review Board affirmed that ruling, finding that the injury was not compensable because the claimant had not “departed his place of abode” as contemplated by § 31-275 (1) (A) (i) at the time he injured his back.  The board rejected the claimant’s argument that he had departed his place of abode when he left his property and walked onto the street to get into his car.  While conceding that § 31-275 (1) (F) purports to limit the definition of “place of abode” to the locations specifically enumerated in that subsection, the board nonetheless determined that the legislature intended to preserve a fact finder's discretion to determine on a case-by-case basis whether an injury occurred at an employee's “place of abode.”  The board found evidence of that legislative intent in Workers’ Compensation Commission regulation § 31-275-1 (2), which defines an employee’s “place of abode” as including, but not limited to, an employee’s house or apartment and yard.  The claimant appeals, arguing that his back injury was compensable because it occurred after he had departed his place of abode.