ANTONIO VITTI v. CITY OF MILFORD et al., SC 20350

Compensation Review Board

 

Workers' Compensation; Whether Plaintiff Entitled to Permanent Partial Disability Award for 100 Percent Loss of His Heart Following Heart Transplant. The plaintiff was employed by the city of Milford's police department from 1993 to 2014. In 2010, he was diagnosed with giant cell myocarditis, a heart disease, and he underwent a heart transplant. The plaintiff subsequently sought, among other things, a permanent partial disability workers' compensation award under General Statutes 31-308 (b) for a 100 percent loss of function of his native heart. Section 31-308 (b) lists the heart among the "members or organs" of the body for which a permanent partial disability award may be sought and provides in relevant part: "If the injury consists of the loss of a substantial part of a member resulting in a permanent partial loss of the use of a member, or if the injury results in a permanent partial loss of function, the commissioner may . . . award to the injured employee the proportion of the sum provided in this subsection for the total loss of, or the loss of the use of, the member or for incapacity or both that represents the proportion of the total loss or loss of use found to exist." Precedent also establishes that a claimant is entitled to a permanent partial disability award once he or she reaches maximum medical improvement. During the proceedings before the trial commissioner, a cardiologist opined that the plaintiff had reached maximum medical improvement after his heart transplant and that he should be given a 23 percent impairment rating for his transplanted heart. The trial commissioner agreed and issued a permanent partial disability award to the plaintiff for a 23 percent loss of function of his transplanted heart, rejecting his claim that his native heart and not his transplanted heart was the organ that should be considered for purposes of determining the award. The Compensation Review Board affirmed the trial commissioner's award, rejecting the plaintiff's argument that the loss of his native heart was comparable to the amputation of a limb, which would warrant a permanent partial disability award for a 100 percent loss of function. The plaintiff appeals from the board's decision. The Supreme Court will decide whether the board properly affirmed the trial commissioner's decision that the plaintiff was entitled to a permanent partial disability award under General Statutes 31-308 (b) for a 23 percent loss of function of his transplanted heart and not for a 100 percent loss of function of his native heart.