REGINALD HOLSTON v.
CITY OF NEW HAVEN POLICE DEPARTMENT et al., SC 19631
Compensation Review Board
Workers’ Compensation; Heart and Hypertension; Whether Claim for § 7-433c Heart Disease Benefits Timely; Whether, Where Hypertension a Substantial Contributing Factor in Development of Heart Disease, Failure to File Timely Claim for Hypertension Benefits Bars Subsequent Claim for Heart Disease Benefits. On October 28, 2009, during a physical examination, the claimant, a police officer, was diagnosed with hypertension. On March 10, 2011, the claimant suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. On March 14, 2011, the claimant filed a notice of claim for heart disease benefits pursuant to General Statutes § 7-433c. The notice of claim listed the date of the claimant’s myocardial infarction as the date of injury. The trial commissioner determined that the claim for § 7-433c benefits was timely and that the injury was compensable. The respondents appealed to the Compensation Review Board, arguing that the trial commissioner improperly concluded that the § 7-433c heart benefits claim was timely under General Statutes § 31-294c (a), which requires that a notice of claim be filed within one year of the date of the accidental injury. The respondents contended that § 7-433c allows a claimant to bring a claim for benefits for either hypertension or heart disease and that, if a claimant fails timely to bring a claim for hypertension benefits and it can be shown that the hypertension is significantly related to the subsequent development of the heart disease, a claimant is barred from pursuing a claim for heart disease benefits. Noting that the trial commissioner here found that the claimant’s preexisting hypertension was a substantial contributing factor in the development of his heart disease, the respondents argued that the notice of claim for heart disease benefits was untimely because it was not filed within one year of the date the claimant was informed of the hypertension diagnosis. The Compensation Review Board disagreed and affirmed the commissioner’s ruling, concluding that, where a claimant previously suffered from either hypertension or heart disease, § 7-433c does not bar him from subsequently seeking benefits for the other malady as long as the claimant can demonstrate that the two maladies are separate. The board observed that, while the trial commissioner found that the claimant’s preexisting hypertension was a significant contributing factor in the development of his heart disease, the commissioner also found that there were additional substantial contributing factors—including the claimant’s high cholesterol and his gender—that supported an inference that the claimant’s heart disease and his hypertension were “separate maladies.” The respondents appeal and challenge the board’s determination that the claimant’s notice of claim for heart disease benefits pursuant to § 7-433c was timely.