698 A.2d 859 (Conn. 1997), 15398, Dodd v. Middlesex Mut. Assur. Co.

Docket Nº15398.
Citation698 A.2d 859, 242 Conn. 375
Opinion JudgeKATZ, J.
Party NameDarrell DODD v. MIDDLESEX MUTUAL ASSURANCE COMPANY.
AttorneyLouis N. George, Hartford, with whom were John S. Rubrich and, on the brief, David Garofoli, legal intern, for appellant (intervening plaintiff)., Jon Berk, Hartford, for appellee (defendant). Louis N. George, with whom were John S. Rubrich and, on the brief, David Garofoli, legal intern, for th...
Judge PanelBefore BORDEN, NORCOTT, KATZ, McDONALD and PETERS, JJ.
Case DateAugust 12, 1997
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut

Page 859

698 A.2d 859 (Conn. 1997)

242 Conn. 375

Darrell DODD

v.

MIDDLESEX MUTUAL ASSURANCE COMPANY.

No. 15398.

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

August 12, 1997

Argued Dec. 4, 1996.

Page 860

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 861

[242 Conn. 376] Louis N. George, Hartford, with whom were John S. Rubrich and, on the brief, David Garofoli, legal intern, for appellant (intervening plaintiff).

Jon Berk, Hartford, for appellee (defendant).

Before BORDEN, NORCOTT, KATZ, McDONALD and PETERS, JJ.

KATZ, Associate Justice.

At issue in this appeal is whether General Statutes (Rev. to 1993) § 31-293(a), 1 which authorizes [242 Conn. 377] employers who have made workers' compensation payments to employees injured by a third party to take action to recover those payments from that third party, entitles an employer to make such a claim against any recovery the employee may be due under the employee's own uninsured motorist provision of his or her automobile insurance policy. We conclude that any amounts an employee may receive from his or her uninsured motorist coverage are not within the reach of § 31-293(a), and, therefore, that the employer has no right to recovery from those funds.

Page 862

The facts are undisputed. The plaintiff, Darrell Dodd, 2 was at all times pertinent to this case an employee of the appellant, Eddie's Evergreen Mobil Service (Evergreen). On December 12, 1993, Dodd was seriously injured when the car he was driving was struck by another car that was unregistered, uninsured and bore stolen license plates. Because at the time of the accident Dodd was acting within the course of his employment, [242 Conn. 378]Evergreen was obligated to pay, and did pay, workers' compensation to Dodd. General Statutes § 31-291 et seq. In order to recover for losses not covered by workers' compensation, Dodd initiated this action against the defendant, Middlesex Mutual Assurance Company, from whom he had purchased an automobile insurance policy that included uninsured motorist coverage.

On October 10, 1993, relying on § 31-293, Evergreen filed a motion to intervene in Dodd's action, along with an intervening complaint seeking reimbursement of workers' compensation paid to Dodd. The trial court, Holzberg, J., granted Evergreen's motion to intervene, whereupon the defendant, claiming that an employer has no right to reimbursement from uninsured motorist benefits, filed a motion to strike the intervening complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The defendant's motion was granted, and this appeal followed. 3

"The function of a motion to strike is to test the legal sufficiency of a pleading; it admits all facts well pleaded. See Practice Book § 152. The role of the trial court [is] to examine the [complaint], construed in favor of the plaintiffs, to determine whether the [pleading party has] stated a legally sufficient cause of action." Napoletano v. CIGNA Healthcare of Connecticut, Inc., 238 Conn. 216, 232-33, 680 A.2d 127 (1996). In this case, the issue is whether the facts as pleaded by Evergreen support a cause of action under § 31-293(a). Evergreen claims that § 31-293(a), which allows an employer seeking to recover workers' compensation payments made to an injured employee to institute an action or to intervene in an action arising from "circumstances creating in a third person other than the employer a legal liability to pay damages for the injury," applies to payments made [242 Conn. 379] pursuant to an uninsured motorist provision. Specifically, Evergreen asserts that because an insurance carrier, like the defendant, has agreed to pay its insured damages he or she would otherwise have received from an adequately insured tortfeasor, and because the insurance carrier may assert the same defenses as the tortfeasor, the defendant in this case has, in effect, stepped into the shoes of the tortfeasor and is therefore subject to the strictures of § 31-293(a). The defendant responds by arguing that the statute was enacted to protect employers from having to pay workers' compensation when an employee's injury was caused by a tortfeasor from whom damages may be recovered, and not to provide access to payments made to the employee under the employee's own uninsured motorist provision. The defendant argues that payments under such a provision are contractual benefits arising from a first party contract between an insurer and its insured, and "damages" are involved only to the extent that the insured's injuries, or damages, are the basis upon which the insurance benefits are calculated. We agree with the defendant that § 31-293(a) does not apply to uninsured motorist coverage.

When we set out to interpret the meaning of a statute, "[o]ur fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature.... In seeking to discern that intent, we look to the words of the statute itself, to the legislative history and circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to its relationship to existing legislation and common law principles governing the same general subject matter." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Conway v. Wilton, 238 Conn. 653, 663, 680 A.2d 242 (1996). Furthermore,

Page 863

"[w]hen a statute is in derogation of common law or creates a [right] where formerly none existed, it should receive a strict construction and is not to be extended, modified, [242 Conn. 380] repealed or enlarged in its scope by the mechanics of [statutory] construction.... In determining whether or not a statute abrogates or modifies a common law rule the construction must be strict, and the operation of a statute in derogation of the common law is to be limited to matters clearly brought within its scope." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Lynn v. Haybuster Mfg., Inc., 226 Conn. 282, 289-90, 627 A.2d 1288 (1993).

We begin with the language of the statute. Section 31-293(a) allows an employer to take action against a "third person" who is legally liable to pay "damages" for an injury to an employee. Evergreen asserts that § 31-293(a) applies to the defendant because, as the plaintiff's uninsured motorist insurance carrier, the defendant is a "third person" who has a legal liability to pay "damages." In response, the defendant argues that it is not a third person as contemplated by the statute and that any payments made by it to the plaintiff are not damages, but simply the benefits of a first party contract between the plaintiff and the defendant for which the plaintiff has paid a premium. Both parties find support for their arguments in the language of the statute, the state insurance regulations and the uninsured motorist provision itself. 4 We conclude that although the definitional difference between "damages" and "benefits" may be relevant to an understanding of the parties' positions, the outcome of this case is determined not by definitions but by an examination [242 Conn. 381] of the purpose of workers' compensation, the policy reasons for allowing an employer, in certain circumstances, to recoup compensation payments, and the nature of an insurance policy.

Connecticut first adopted a statutory scheme of workers' compensation in 1913. 5 "The purpose of the Workers' Compensation Act [act]; General Statutes § 31-275 et seq.; is to provide compensation for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment, regardless of fault. Klapproth v. Turner, 156 Conn. 276, 279, 240 A.2d 886 (1968). Under the statute, the employee surrenders his right to bring a common law action against the employer, thereby limiting the employer's liability to the statutory amount. Jett v. Dunlap, 179 Conn. 215, 217, 425 A.2d 1263 (1979)." Lynn v. Haybuster Mfg., Inc., supra, 226 Conn. at 297, 627 A.2d 1288. In return, the employee is compensated for his or her losses without having to prove liability. 1 A. Larson & L. Larson, Workmen's Compensation (1997) § 1.10, pp. 1-1 through 1-2. " 'In a word, these statutes compromise an employee's right to a common law tort action for work related injuries in return for relatively quick and certain compensation.' Mingachos v. CBS, Inc., 196 Conn. 91, 97, 491 A.2d 368 (1985)." Lynn v. Haybuster Mfg., Inc., supra, at 297, 627 A.2d 1288.

Chapter 138, part B, § 6, of the 1913 Public Acts provided in relevant part: "When any injury for which compensation is payable under this act shall have been sustained under circumstances creating in some other person than the employer a legal liability to pay damages in respect thereto ... any employer having paid the compensation shall be subrogated to the rights of the injured employee to recover against that person...." That provision was subsequently amended, [242 Conn. 382] removing the reference to subrogation and substituting language allowing an employer either to intervene in an action brought by an employee or to bring its own direct action against a third party. See Public Acts 1917, c. 368, § 1. The language of the 1917 act is

Page 864

virtually identical to that of the current § 31-293(a), 6 the application of which is at issue in this case.

This statutory right of action, allowing a person other than the injured party to bring an action for an injury, did not exist at common law. "Under common law a cause of action for personal injuries cannot be assigned, and in the absence of a statutory provision to the contrary a right of action for personal injuries resulting from negligence is not assignable Before judgment. 6 Am.Jur.2d 220, Assignments, § 37. The rule is succinctly stated in the Restatement, 2 Contracts § 547(1)(d): 'An assignment of a claim against a third person or a bargain to assign such a claim is illegal and ineffective if the claim is for ... (d) damages for an injury the gist of which is to the person rather than to property, unless the claim has been reduced to...

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1027 practice notes
  • 198 F.R.D. 325 (D.Conn. 2001), Civ. A. 3:00CV2167JCH, Doe v. Bridgeport Police Dept.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • January 18, 2001
    ...the judicial interpretation of them, and the effect that its action or nonaction will have on them. Dodd v. Middlesex Mut. Assurance Co., 242 Conn. 375, 386, 698 A.2d 859 (1997); see also In re Valerie D., 223 Conn. 492, 524, 613 A.2d 748 (1992) (" Furthermore, the legislature in enact......
  • Valentin v. St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center, 110705 CTSUP, CV040832314
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • November 7, 2005
    ...documents. Krawczyk v. Stingle, 208 Conn. 239, 244-46, 543 A.2d 733 (1988); see also Dodd v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 242 Conn. 375, 383, 698 A.2d 859 (1997) (‘ [t]he ability of someone other than the injured party, e.g., the [injured party's] employer, to bring or to intervene ......
  • Rokicki v. Putnam Fish & Game Club, Inc., 052112 CTSUP, WWMCV116003596S
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • May 21, 2012
    ...legally sufficient cause of action." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Dodd v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 242 Conn. 375, 378, 698 A.2d 859 (1997). " It is fundamental that in determining the sufficiency of a complaint challenged by a defendant's motion to......
  • 72 CBJ 169. Developments in Tort Law: 1997 Annual Survey.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Journal Nbr. 2009, January 2009
    • January 1, 2009
    ...granted, 243 Conn. 938,__A.2d__(1997).27O. Id, at 718 (Spallone, J., dissenting).271. 243 Conn. 938, - A.2d - (1997). 272. 242 Conn. 375, 698 A.2d 859 (1997). 273. Id at 387 274. Now codified as Section 31-301(f) of the General Statutes. 275. 43 Conn. 311, _ A.2d _ ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1017 cases
  • 198 F.R.D. 325 (D.Conn. 2001), Civ. A. 3:00CV2167JCH, Doe v. Bridgeport Police Dept.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • January 18, 2001
    ...the judicial interpretation of them, and the effect that its action or nonaction will have on them. Dodd v. Middlesex Mut. Assurance Co., 242 Conn. 375, 386, 698 A.2d 859 (1997); see also In re Valerie D., 223 Conn. 492, 524, 613 A.2d 748 (1992) (" Furthermore, the legislature in enact......
  • Valentin v. St. Francis Hospital & Medical Center, 110705 CTSUP, CV040832314
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • November 7, 2005
    ...documents. Krawczyk v. Stingle, 208 Conn. 239, 244-46, 543 A.2d 733 (1988); see also Dodd v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 242 Conn. 375, 383, 698 A.2d 859 (1997) (‘ [t]he ability of someone other than the injured party, e.g., the [injured party's] employer, to bring or to intervene ......
  • Rokicki v. Putnam Fish & Game Club, Inc., 052112 CTSUP, WWMCV116003596S
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • May 21, 2012
    ...legally sufficient cause of action." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Dodd v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 242 Conn. 375, 378, 698 A.2d 859 (1997). " It is fundamental that in determining the sufficiency of a complaint challenged by a defendant's motion to......
  • Beckenstein v. Naier, 110410 CTSUP, HHDCV085019254S
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Connecticut
    • November 4, 2010
    ...party has] stated a legally sufficient cause of action." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Dodd v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co., 242 Conn. 375, 378, 698 A.2d 859 (1997). "In ruling on a motion to strike, the court is limited to the facts alleged in the [challenged pleading].&q......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • 72 CBJ 169. Developments in Tort Law: 1997 Annual Survey.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Journal Nbr. 2009, January 2009
    • January 1, 2009
    ...granted, 243 Conn. 938,__A.2d__(1997).27O. Id, at 718 (Spallone, J., dissenting).271. 243 Conn. 938, - A.2d - (1997). 272. 242 Conn. 375, 698 A.2d 859 (1997). 273. Id at 387 274. Now codified as Section 31-301(f) of the General Statutes. 275. 43 Conn. 311, _ A.2d _ ......
  • 72 CBJ 42. LABOR RELATIONS AND EMPLOYMENT LAW: 1997 DEVELOPMENTS IN CONNECTICUT.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Journal Nbr. 2009, January 2009
    • January 1, 2009
    ...in the permanent loss of right to bring an action against the third party tort feasor.); Dodd v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Company, 242 Conn. 375, 698 A.2d 859 (1997) (Section 31-293(a) does not authorize an employer to be reimbursed for workers' compensation benefits from t......

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