Robert Tanguay v. Rent-A-Center, Inc. & Sedgwick Claims Management Services
5714 CRB-8-11-12, 800172710
The Compensation Review Board recently overturned a trial commissioner’s ruling in which the commissioner granted the claimant’s motion to preclude based on his claim that the workers’ compensation carrier failed to file a timely contest of claim, also known as a Form 43. Prior to the claimant having filed a Form 30C, the respondent filed a Form 43, disclaiming an injury that occurred to the claimant’s “left” knee, indicating that the claimant had suffered from a preexisting condition. Several months later, the claimant filed a Form 30C, alleging an injury to his right knee, reciting the same date of injury as had been stated on the Form 43. The respondent did not file a separate Form 43 to respond to the claimant’s 30C until after the claimant filed a motion to preclude approximately three months after having filed the Form 30C. The trial commissioner determined that the Form 43 was defective in terms of naming the wrong knee, and as such, its first Form 43 “did not substantially comply with the strictures of §31-294c(b),” and thereby granted the motion.
The Compensation Review Board reversed the trial commissioner, claiming that the determination of whether a Form 43 is sufficient to communicate a respondent’s intent to contest a liability for a specific element of the claimant’s, is a question of law rather than fact. As such, the CRB is not second-guessing the trial commissioner’s factual determination in finding that the trial commissioner had come to the wrong conclusion of law. Specifically, the respondent could file a preemptive disclaimer of liability if it appears that a workers’ compensation claim is imminent. It further held that “this commission is loathe to order it (preclusion) under circumstances where the underlying basis for preclusion appears to be allegations of technical deficiencies and not substantive deficiencies.” The CRB held that it would not exalt form over substance to inflict the harsh penalty of granting a motion to preclude.