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McGinty v. Stamford Police Department

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 9, 2019

THOMAS MCGINTY
v.
STAMFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT ET AL.

          Argued May 20, 2019

         Procedural History

         Appeal from the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commissioner for the Seventh District finding that the plaintiff had sustained a compensable injury and awarding, inter alia, disability benefits; thereafter, the commissioner denied the defendants' motion to correct; subsequently, the defendants appealed to the Compensation Review Board, which affirmed the commissioner's decision, and the defendants appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Scott Wilson Williams, for the appellants (defendants).

          David J. Morrissey, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Lavine and Prescott, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         The defendants, the Stamford Police Department (police department), and PMA Management Corporation of New England, the workers' compensation liability insurer for the police department, appeal from the decision of the Compensation Review Board (board) affirming the finding and award (award) of the Workers' Compensation Commissioner for the Seventh District (commissioner) with respect to the claim filed by the plaintiff, Thomas McGinty, under General Statutes § 7-433c, [1] commonly referred to as the Heart and Hypertension Act.[2] On appeal, the defendants principally claim that the board improperly affirmed the commissioner's award concluding that the plaintiff had suffered from compensable heart disease. Before the commissioner and on appeal, the defendants have argued that the plaintiff's condition, arterial sclerosis, is not a disease unique to the heart, but a systemic condition, and is, therefore, not compensable heart disease. We affirm the decision of the board.

         In her May 24, 2017 award, the commissioner made the following findings of fact, which are relevant to our resolution of this appeal. The plaintiff was employed as a police officer from January 8, 1990 through April 15, 2011, when he retired with a service related disability pension due to injuries he sustained during the course of his employment.[3] The plaintiff passed a preemployment physical that did not reveal evidence of hypertension or heart disease. The plaintiff struggled to control his weight and high cholesterol. In 2007, he experienced left leg pain due to a blockage of his iliac artery, which was treated twice by angioplasty. The plaintiff was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease. An electrocardiogram and nuclear stress test were negative for heart disease at that time.

         In 2009, the plaintiff experienced shortness of breath and chest pain. The results of a stress test performed on April 2, 2009, were positive and, when compared with the prior study, revealed a new ‘‘defect.'' The plaintiff was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and hypertension, and medication was prescribed for the conditions. On April 24, 2009, the plaintiff underwent cardiac catheterization that revealed two vessel coronary artery disease. The plaintiff was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation on November 19, 2009, and he underwent an ablation on February 16, 2010. A cardiac catheterization performed on September 14, 2011, showed progression of the plaintiff's coronary artery disease, and he underwent bypass surgery in December, 2011.

         On May 27, 2009, the plaintiff filed a form 30C[4] claiming that he was entitled to benefits under § 7-433c as a result of hypertension and heart disease. On May 11, 2009, the police department timely filed a form 43 contesting the claim and also filed a supplemental form 43 on June 2, 2009.[5]

         Joseph R. Anthony, a cardiologist, examined the plaintiff on September 3, 2010. Anthony reported that the plaintiff had both coronary heart disease and hypertension. On July 15, 2014, Anthony gave the plaintiff a 24 percent disability impairment due to his hypertensive cardiovascular disease and a 26 percent disability impairment for his coronary heart disease. The combined rating was 44 percent. Anthony also assigned an 11 to 13 percent disability impairment for the plaintiff's ventricular tachycardia, or arrhythmia.

         Martin J. Krauthamer, a cardiologist, examined the plaintiff on behalf of the defendants. Krauthamer found no evidence of hypertension in the plaintiff more than a year prior to April, 2009. He testified at the formal hearing that in 2010, the plaintiff clearly had vascular disease, but that it had not yet impacted his heart, and, therefore, the plaintiff did not have cardiovascular disease at that time. Krauthamer opined that the disease process that resulted in a blockage of the plaintiff's coronary artery was the same process that resulted in a blockage of the peripheral arteries of his groin. According to Krauthamer, the atherosclerotic process occurs separately in different parts of the body as it is a systemic disease. He assigned the plaintiff a disability rating of 8 percent due to hypertension and an 11 percent disability rating due to his premature ventricular contractions.

         On the basis of the evidence presented at the formal hearing, the commissioner accepted the plaintiff's claim. She found his testimony and medical evidence to be credible and persuasive in support of a heart disease and hypertension claim pursuant to § 7-433c. The commissioner found Anthony's opinion and reports to be more credible than Krauthamer's.[6] The commissioner concluded that the plaintiff had reached maximum medical improvement on September 3, 2010, and had disability ratings of 24 percent due to hypertension, 26 percent due to coronary artery disease, and 11 percent due to arrhythmia. She ...


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