In Churchville v. Daly
, the Connecticut Supreme Court considered whether a deceased employee, who had been receiving “temporary total incapacity” benefits under the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act (“CWCA”), is entitled to an award of “permanent partial disability” benefits even if that employee had not affirmatively requested such benefits prior to his death. The Court concluded that the benefits automatically vest when the employee reaches maximum medical improvement, regardless of whether the employee made an affirmative request for such benefits.
Benefits for Permanent Partial Disability Under The CWCA
The CWCA provides injured workers with a panoply of benefits. Those benefits include “permanent partial disability” benefits, which an employer must pay to an eligible employee who has suffered a permanent, partial loss of the use of a body part due to his or her work-related injury. The amount of the award is based on the body part at issue, the extent of the disability, and the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission’s (“CWCC”) “Maximum PPD Benefit Schedule.” The amount is calculated following a medical evaluation of the employee’s condition when the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (i.e., no further treatment will improve the condition).
For example, the CWCC’s Maximum PPD Benefit Schedule has set a maximum permanent partial disability benefit for the disability of an eye at 157 weeks. If a medical evaluation (after an employee reaches maximum medical improvement) determines that she permanently has lost the use of 50% of her eye, she would be entitled to an award equal to 78.5 weeks of her basic salary.
The Connecticut Supreme Court’s Decision
In Churchville, the Connecticut Supreme Court clarified its 1993 holding in McCurdy v. State. In McCurdy, the Court held that where “the worker has reached maximum medical improvement and his permanent partial disability award has thereby vested . . . the commissioner does not have discretion to deny such an award if the worker requests that award.” In Churchville, the Court made clear that whether an injured worker requested a permanent partial disability award is immaterial. All that matters is whether the right to such benefit has vested, which, in turn, depends solely on whether the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement.