January 24, 2018
from the decision by the Workers' Compensation
Commissioner for the Second District dismissing the
plaintiff's claim for certain disability benefits,
brought to the Workers' Compensation Review Board, which
affirmed the commissioner's decision, and the plaintiff
appealed to this court. Reversed; judgment
W. Huebner, for the appellant (plaintiff).
Dominick C. Statile, with whom, on the brief, was Tushar G.
Shah, for the appellee (defendants).
Keller, Prescott and Bright, Js.
principal issue in this appeal is the compensability, under
the Workers' Compensation Act (act), General Statutes
§ 31-275 et seq., of an injury to an employee that
occurred on an employer's premises when the employee
became lightheaded, fell, and hit her head while walking to
her work station before the start of her shift. The
plaintiff, Sharon Clements, appeals from the decision of the
Workers' Compensation Review Board (board) affirming the
decision of the Workers' Compensation Commissioner for
the Second District (commissioner) in favor of the defendant
employer, Aramark Corporation (defendant), and the
employer's insurer, Sedgwick CMS, Inc. The plaintiff
claims that the board erred in holding that, because the
plaintiff's fall was caused by her personal infirmity,
rather than a workplace condition, her resultant head injury
did not arise out of and in the course of her employment
within the meaning of the act. We agree and, accordingly,
reverse the decision of the board.
following undisputed facts, which are set forth in the
commissioner's decision or are ascertained from
uncontested portions of the record, are relevant to our
consideration of the issue on appeal. The plaintiff, while
employed by the defendant, served as a mess attendant at the
Coast Guard Academy in New London (academy). Her duties
included serving food and beverages, and cleaning up after
meals. She typically worked during both breakfast and lunch.
On the morning of September 19, 2012, the plaintiff drove to
work, parked her vehicle at the academy at approximately 5:40
a.m., and exited her vehicle. She walked a short distance
from her vehicle to a building. The path was short, not
uphill or inclined in any way. The plaintiff did not trip.
The plaintiff testified that, after entering the building and
walking down a hallway, she ‘‘went through the
door to go out to get into the next building, ''
where she became lightheaded and passed out, falling backward
‘‘on the [asphalt], '' and hitting her
head on the ground. No one witnessed her fall. After she was
discovered by coworkers, someone called for assistance.
Members of the New London Fire Department arrived and found
the plaintiff ‘‘lying on the ground''
with ‘‘a bump on the back of her head, ''
‘‘unable to sign [a] consent form because of her
level of consciousness . . . .'' The plaintiff was
taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital (hospital). Hospital
reports indicate that the plaintiff suffered from a syncopal
episode and that she was diagnosed with ecchymosis and
swelling. A treating physician, Neer Zeevi, and
hospital records, indicate that the plaintiff's syncope
likely was cardiac or cardiogenic in etiology.
in the emergency room, the plaintiff suffered from cardiac
arrest. During her stay in the hospital, the plaintiff had a
pacemaker inserted. In a discharge summary report, John
Nelson, a neurologist, opined: ‘‘Apparently she
had significant head trauma secondary to her fall. While in
the emergency department, she again lost consciousness and
was seen to have asystoleon monitoring. [Cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR)] was initiated and the patient had return
of spontaneous rhythm and blood pressure shortly afterwards.
Per the [emergency room] physician, CPR was reportedly begun
within [twenty] seconds on onset of asystole and was only
carried out for approximately [ten] seconds before the
patient experienced spontaneous return of rhythm.''
plaintiff has a history of cardiac disease, hypertension,
hyperlipidemia, hypothyroidism, and an irregular heartbeat.
She also has a family history of coronary disease. Her
discharge records set forth, inter alia, the following
diagnosis: asystolic arrest, cardiogenic syncope with
concussive head injury, and hypothyroidism. On the basis of
these findings, the commissioner determined that
‘‘the [plaintiff's] injury did not arise out
of her employment with the [defendant], but was caused by a
plaintiff appealed from the commissioner's decision to
the board. She claimed, in relevant part, that the
commissioner had misapplied the law and improperly determined
that her injury did not arise out of her employment. The
board disagreed, concluding that ‘‘[t]here is no
question that the [plaintiff] has been left with a
significant disability as a result of the concussive injury
which is the subject of this appeal. Nevertheless, the
[plaintiff] provided the . . . commissioner with no evidence
[that] would substantiate the claim that her employment
contributed in any fashion to the fall [that] led to the
injury or that the injury would not have occurred had the
claimant been somewhere else at the time.''
Accordingly, the board affirmed the decision of the
commissioner, ruling in favor of the defendant. This appeal
begin by setting forth the standard of review applicable to
workers' compensation appeals. ‘‘The
commissioner has the power and duty, as the trier of fact, to
determine the facts . . . and [n]either the . . . board nor
this court has the power to retry facts. . . . The
conclusions drawn by [the commissioner] from the facts found
[also] must stand unless they result from an incorrect
application of the law to the subordinate facts or from an
inference illegally or unreasonably drawn from them. . . .
Cases that present pure questions of law, however, invoke a
broader standard of review than is ordinarily involved in
deciding whether, in light of the evidence, the agency has
acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, illegally or in abuse of its
discretion. . . . [I]t is well established that, in resolving
issues of statutory construction under the act, we are
mindful that the act indisputably is a remedial statute that
should be construed generously to accomplish its purpose. . .
. The humanitarian and remedial purposes of the act counsel
against an overly narrow construction that unduly limits
eligibility for workers' compensation. . . . Accordingly,
[i]n construing workers' compensation law, we must
resolve statutory ambiguities or lacunae in a manner that
will further the remedial purpose of the act. . . . [T]he
purposes of the act itself are best served by allowing the
remedial legislation a reasonable sphere of operation
considering those purposes.'' (Citations omitted;
internal quotation marks omitted.) Hart v.
Federal Express Corp., 321 Conn. 1, 18-19, 135 A.3d
scope of review of the actions of the board is similarly
limited. . . . The role of this court is to determine whether
the review [board's] decision results from an incorrect
application of the law to the subordinate facts or from an
inference illegally or unreasonably drawn from
them.'' (Internal quotation ...