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Dombrowski v. City of New Haven

Appellate Court of Connecticut

December 10, 2019


         Argued September 19, 2019

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          Paul T. Dombrowski, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

         Brian L. Smith, for the appellees (defendants).

         Alvord, Moll and Norcott, Js.


         MOLL, J.

         [194 Conn.App. 740] The self-represented plaintiff, Paul Dombrowski, appeals from the decision of the Compensation Review Board (board) affirming the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner for the Third District (commissioner) of the Workers’ Compensation Commission (commission), denying the plaintiff’s motion to open a stipulation executed by the plaintiff and the defendants, the city of New Haven (city) and the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA). On appeal, the plaintiff raises a number of claims that, in essence, challenge the propriety of the board’s decision affirming the commissioner’s denial of his motion to open. We affirm the decision of the board.

         The following procedural history and facts, as found by the commissioner in her "finding and dismissal," [194 Conn.App. 741] dated October 11, 2016, or as undisputed in the record, are relevant to our resolution of this appeal. The plaintiff is a retired police officer who was formerly employed by the city.[1] Following his retirement, the plaintiff sought to settle certain pending workers’ compensation claims relating to several injuries that he had sustained during his employment with the city. After numerous informal hearings, the plaintiff, without the assistance of counsel, agreed to accept a global settlement of his workers’ compensation claims for a lump sum payment of $22,500. The settlement was contingent upon the approval of the funds by the city’s litigation settlement committee, which approved the funds on September 23, 2015. On September 29, 2015, the commission issued a notice providing that a

Page 536

stipulation approval hearing was scheduled for September 30, 2015.

         On the morning of September 30, 2015, prior to the stipulation approval hearing, the plaintiff, accompanied by Craig Miller, the president of the police union, met with the defendants’ counsel. The defendants’ counsel presented the plaintiff with two documents: (1) a "Stipulation," dated September 28, 2015 (stipulation); and (2) a "Settlement Agreement, General Release and Covenant Not to Sue," dated September 29, 2015 (settlement agreement). The stipulation provided in relevant part: "[I]t is agreed by and between the parties hereto that the [defendants] shall pay to the [plaintiff] in addition to the compensation and medical benefits already paid by the [defendants] the further sum of [$22,500], the same is to be in full, final and complete settlement, adjustment accord, and satisfaction of all claims which the aforesaid [plaintiff] might otherwise have against the [defendants], or either of them, and be made and accepted in lieu of all other compensation payments, in accordance with our [Workers’ Compensation Act (act), General Statutes § 31-275 et seq.]." The stipulation [194 Conn.App. 742] did not reference the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement provided in relevant part: "[The plaintiff] ... for and in consideration of both monetary sums and by action previously recited within the content of [the stipulation] attached as Exhibit A hereto, receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, [does] remise, release and forever discharge ... [the city] ... as to any and all actions, causes and causes of action, sums of money, covenants, contracts, controversies, agreements, promises, damages, claims and demands whatsoever, in law or in equity ... as a result of [the plaintiff’s] employment or with severance of [the plaintiff’s] employment with [the city] from the commencement of [the plaintiff’s] employment with [the city] to the date of [the plaintiff’s] execution of the [settlement agreement], whether known or unsuspected, including all claims, demands, or causes of action under any federal or state law, regulation or decision including but not limited to causes of action under the [Workers’] Compensation Laws of the State of Connecticut ... [t]he Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. [§ ] 621 et seq. [ADEA] ... [and] [a]ny other federal, state or local civil or human rights law or any other local, state or federal law, regulation or ordinance."[2] The settlement agreement also provided in relevant part: "[The plaintiff] represent[s] that [the plaintiff has] been advised that [the plaintiff] should consult and acknowledge[s] that [the plaintiff has] consulted a private attorney with respect to [the settlement agreement] and [has] been given an adequate opportunity to discuss all aspects of [the settlement agreement] with counsel of [the ...

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