Labadie v. NORWALK REHABILITATION SERVICES

Decision Date03 August 2004
Docket NumberNo. 24353.,24353.
Citation84 Conn.App. 220,853 A.2d 597
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
PartiesRose LABADIE v. NORWALK REHABILITATION SERVICES, INC., et al.

Gregory S. Kimmel, Norwalk, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Cynthia J. Coccomo, Rock Hill, for the appellees (defendants).

FOTI, DRANGINIS and DiPENTIMA, Js.

DRANGINIS, J.

The issue in this workers' compensation appeal is whether a home health care worker whose employer required her to travel to the homes of its clients sustained a compensable injury when she was struck by a motor vehicle as she crossed a street en route to her first assignment of the day. We conclude that because travel was indispensable to the service provided by the home health care employer, the plaintiff's injury was compensable. We reverse the decision of the workers' compensation review board (board).

The plaintiff, Rose Labadie, a certified nursing assistant-home health care worker employed by the defendant Norwalk Rehabilitation Services, Inc.,1 appeals from the decision of the board that reversed the finding and award of the workers' compensation commissioner (commissioner). On appeal, the plaintiff claims (1) that the board failed to abide by the applicable standard of review and (2) that the board improperly concluded that (a) at the time of her injury, she was not doing something incidental to her employment and for the benefit of the defendant, (b) her home was not tantamount to a satellite office of the defendant and (c) the defendant is not responsible for her injury due to her employment with another home health care agency.

The parties submitted the following stipulated facts to the commissioner, relevant to the date in question. The plaintiff resided in an apartment building at 300 Tresser Boulevard in Stamford and was employed as a certified nursing assistant-home health care worker by both the defendant and Atrium Homecare (Atrium). Both of her employers required the plaintiff to perform her duties in the homes of their clients. The plaintiff does not hold a Connecticut motor vehicle operator's license and routinely took a bus to the homes of the people to whom she provided health care services for the defendant. The defendant reimbursed the plaintiff for the bus fare she paid to travel from the home of one of its clients to another, but it did not reimburse the fare she paid to travel from her home to the day's first assignment or from the day's last assignment back home.

From 7 to 9 a.m. on February 18, 1998, the plaintiff performed health care services for one of Atrium's clients, who happened to reside in the plaintiff's apartment building. At 9 a.m., she left 300 Tresser Boulevard and walked to a bus stop where she boarded a bus to travel to the home of one of the defendant's clients on Knickerbocker Avenue in Stamford. The client on Knickerbocker Avenue was the first client of the day for whom the plaintiff was scheduled to provide the defendant's services. She alighted from the bus on Hope Street and, as she crossed that street, was struck by a motor vehicle. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries to her arms and leg.

The plaintiff filed a claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (act), General Statutes § 31-275 et seq., seeking benefits afforded by the act. She named the defendant as the respondent. The defendant filed a form 43 denying the plaintiff's claim on the ground that the plaintiff was not injured during the course of her employment.

In his finding and award, the commissioner adopted the parties' stipulation of facts and also found, on the basis of the plaintiff's deposition testimony, that she rarely went to the defendant's place of business in Norwalk, and that she received her assignments via telephone at her Tresser Boulevard home, where she also completed paperwork and received her paychecks. She filed her reports by mail. The commissioner concluded that the plaintiff's home was tantamount to a satellite office of the defendant. The plaintiff was required to use the public highways to attend to her duties for the defendant, which was for the defendant's benefit. The commissioner also found that it was unclear whether the plaintiff was reimbursed for her travel from 300 Tresser Boulevard to the home of the defendant's first client of the day. The commissioner concluded that the plaintiff was injured in the course of her employment and that she had sustained a compensable injury.

The defendant filed a motion to correct the commissioner's finding, asking the commissioner to delete his finding that the plaintiff's home was tantamount to a satellite office and that it was unclear that the defendant reimbursed the plaintiff for travel to the first appointment of the day. The defendant also asked the commissioner to dismiss the claim because the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that she had sustained a compensable injury. The commissioner denied the motion to correct. The defendant appealed to the board, asserting that the commissioner improperly denied the motion to correct and that the award was contrary to the board's existing decisions.

In an opinion dated June 21, 2001, the board sustained the defendant's appeal, concluding, among other things, that the commissioner had applied improperly the "coming and going rule"; see Lake v. Bridgeport, 102 Conn. 337, 342-43, 128 A. 782 (1925); and the "benefit test"; id., at 343, 128 A. 782; to the facts of this case. It remanded the case to the commissioner, however, with direction to conduct further proceedings to determine whether the plaintiff's home was a satellite office and to consider the legal significance of the plaintiff's having cared for one of Atrium's clients prior to setting out for the defendant's client on Knickerbocker Avenue.

On remand, the commissioner addressed the three indicia of an established home workplace cited in the board's decision. See 1 A. Larson & L. Larson, Workers' Compensation Law (2000) § 16.10[2], p. 16-27. The commissioner found that regardless of whether the plaintiff performed duties for the defendant at her home, the amount of time she spent doing it was about fifteen minutes a month, which was not a substantial quantity of time. The plaintiff kept no employment related equipment in her apartment, save a telephone. The commissioner was unable to determine whether there were special circumstances of employment that made it necessary, rather than personally convenient, for the plaintiff to complete some of her duties in her apartment.

As to the legal consequences of the plaintiff's having performed services for Atrium after leaving her apartment but prior to her leaving the apartment building, the commissioner found that the question concerned the parameters of his use of the term premises. He found that the plaintiff had not left the premises until she left the curb or lot line of 300 Tresser Boulevard. The commissioner thus concluded that the plaintiff had not deviated from her employment with the defendant.

The commissioner also determined that the defendant did not reimburse the plaintiff for travel to and from her home, only for travel between the homes of its clients, which implied that the plaintiff was not in the course of her employment when she was traveling to her first appointment for the defendant. With regard to the "coming and going rule" and the "benefit test," the commissioner concluded that because he had determined that the plaintiff's apartment was a satellite office, the rule and test did not apply. The defendant again filed a motion to correct, which the commissioner denied.

The defendant once more appealed to the board, essentially claiming that the plaintiff's home was not a satellite office and that 300 Tresser Boulevard was not part of the premises of the satellite office, if one existed. The defendant further argued that the plaintiff's tending to the needs of the Atrium patient before departing for Knickerbocker Avenue was a deviation from her employment with the defendant. The board concluded, in an opinion dated June 3, 2003, that there was insufficient evidence to support the commissioner's finding that the defendant maintained a satellite office in the plaintiff's home or that the plaintiff had begun her workday for the defendant at the time she was injured. Accordingly, the board reversed the finding and award of the commissioner.

I

The plaintiff's first claim is that the board overstepped its authority with respect to the standard of review that applies to the board's review of a commissioner's findings and award. The plaintiff claims that the board is bound by the clearly erroneous standard when reviewing a finding and award issued by the commissioner. The defendant argues that the board's review is plenary because no Connecticut court has defined the parameters for extending an employer's premises to encompass an employee's residence. The standard of review that applies to the circumstances of this case was articulated by our Supreme Court in Spatafore v. Yale University, 239 Conn. 408, 417-20, 684 A.2d 1155 (1996).

"It is well settled that, because the purpose of the act is to compensate employees for injuries without fault by imposing a form of strict liability on employers, to recover for an injury under the act a plaintiff must prove that the injury is causally connected to the employment. To establish a causal connection, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the claimed injury (1) arose out of the employment, and (2) in the course of the employment." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., at 417-18, 684 A.2d 1155.

"The determination of whether an injury arose out of and in the course of employment is a question of fact for the commissioner.... A party aggrieved by a commissioner's decision to grant or deny an award may appeal to the board pursuant to [General Statutes § 31-301] ...." (Citation omitted.) Spatafore v. Yale University, supra, 239...

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7 cases
  • Kuehl v. Koskoff
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • June 12, 2018
    ...a question of fact for the commissioner." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Labadie v. Norwalk Rehabilitation Services, Inc. , 84 Conn. App. 220, 225–26, 853 A.2d 597 (2004), aff'd, 274 Conn. 219, 875 A.2d 485 (2005)."The purpose of the [workers'] compensation statute is......
  • Foster v. Foster
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • August 3, 2004
    ... ... Lassiter v. Dept. of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18, 27, 101 S.Ct. 2153, 68 L.Ed.2d 640 (1981). Our Supreme Court ... ...
  • Anderton v. Wasteaway Services, LLC
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • September 13, 2005
    ...employment] is the finding of a primary fact." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Labadie v. Norwalk Rehabilitation Services, Inc., 84 Conn. App. 220, 226, 853 A.2d 597, cert. granted on other grounds, 271 Conn. 925, 859 A.2d 579 (2004). "Put another way, the board is pre......
  • Labadie v. Norwalk Rehabilitation Services, Inc.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 5, 2005
    ...a motor vehicle while crossing the street en route to the home of her first patient of the day. Labadie v. Norwalk Rehabilitation Services, Inc., 84 Conn. App. 220, 235-36, 853 A.2d 597 (2004). We conclude that the injuries of the plaintiff, Rose Labadie, are compensable under the act becau......
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