ALFRED BATTISTA, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT v. NEW HAVEN BOYS GIRLS CLUB, EMPLOYER and SECOND INJURY AND COMPENSATION ASSURANCE FUND, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

CASE NO. 1184 CRD-3-91-2Workers’ Compensation Commission
JUNE 5, 1992

The claimant was represented by Charles E. Tiernan, III, Esq., Lynch, Traub, Keefe and Errante, P.C.

The respondent was represented by John M. Letizia, Esq., Wiggin Dana.

The Second Injury Fund was represented by Robin L. Wilson, Esq.

This Petition for Review from the February 19, 1991 Finding and Denial of the Commissioner for the Third District was heard January 24, 1992 before Compensation Review Division panel consisting of the commissioner. Chairman, John Arcudi and Commissioners Robin Waller and Angelo dos Santos.

OPINION

JOHN ARCUDI, COMMISSIONER.

Claimant sustained a compensable back injury December 17, 1978. His appeal seeks continuance of Sec. 31-284(b) fringe benefits, i.e. accident and health insurance coverage. The Third District’s February 19, 1991 decision denied the claim.

Total disability has continued since the date of injury, and claimant has received temporary total disability benefits without interruption. Liability for those payments was transferred to the Second Injury Fund December 16, 1980. A Sec. 31-293 third party civil suit brought by the claimant was settled by him with a net recovery of $100,000.00. As part of the settlement the employer and the Second Injury Fund waived any claim to reimbursement from those proceeds.

From the date of injury, December 17, 1978, until the date of the Third District ruling, February 19, 1991, the employer paid premiums continuing claimant’s group health insurance coverage. At the time of injury the employer seemingly was obligated to continue such group insurance benefits coverage under Sec. 31-51h while an employee was receiving workers’ compensation benefits as this claimant was. However, Sec. 31-51h
was declared unconstitutional in Stone Webster Engineering Corp. v. Ilsley, 518 F. Sup. 1297 (D Conn. 1981), aff’d 690 F.2d 323 (2nd Cir. 1982), aff’d subnom. Arcudi v. Stone
Webster Engineering Corp., 463 U.S. 1220 (1983). Sec. 31-284(b) was enacted effective October 1, 1982 after the Stone and Webster decision declared that Sec. 31-51h had been preempted by the federal enactment of ERISA.

Claimant concedes that the employer has no statutory obligation to continue group medical insurance payments as Sec. 31-51h in effect in 1978 has been preempted by federal law and as Sec. 31-284(b) did not take effect until 1982 after the date of injury. However, he argues that the settlement in the third party Superior Court lawsuit created a contractual obligation to provide those benefits. That settlement provided that workers’ compensation benefits were to continue to be paid. Even if we were to agree with this problematic interpretation, we would be powerless to grant claimant the relief sought. Our jurisdiction is limited to that granted in the statute, Castro v. Viera, 207 Conn. 420 (1988), Raccio v. Townsend Industries, 946 CRD-3-89-11
(April 16, 1991). Since there is no statutory obligation, the commissioner was right to deny the claim.

We therefore affirm the commissioner’s February 19, 1991 ruling denying the claim.

Commissioners Robin Waller and Angelo dos Santos concurs.