Workers’ Compensation – The Mailbox Rule

Authored by: Michaela G. Gonzalez

Ajredin Ajdini v. Frank Lill & Son, Inc., Et. Al., 349 Conn. 1 (2024).  The plaintiff alleged that in the course and scope of his employment, he sustained two separate injuries in July of 2018.  He properly sent a Form 30C (Notice of Claim for Compensation) to the Workers’ Compensation Commission and employer for each injury pursuant to C.G.S. § 31-294c (a).  The Forms were received by the Commission and employer on May 3, 2019.  On May 29, 2019, the plaintiff mailed both the claimant and Commission a Form 43 (Notice of Intention to Contest), pursuant to C.G.S. § 31-294c (b).  The plaintiff then filed a Motion to Preclude, arguing that because the employer failed to commence payment of the claims or file a notice of intention to contest the claims within twenty-eight days following receipt of the notice of claim, the employer should be presumed to have accepted compensability of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries and precluded from contesting those claims.  The Administrative Law Judge granted the plaintiff’s motion and ordered that the defendants be conclusively presumed to have accepted compensability of the plaintiff’s injuries.  On appeal, the defendant argued that the Form 43 states, “that it must be served on the administrative law judge and the claimant” and that the mailbox rule suggests the date of service is deemed to be the date of mailing.  The Supreme Court reviewed the language and determined that since the Legislature used both “file” and “send” in the language of C.G.S. § 31-294c, they were intended to have different meanings.  Thus, the Supreme Court ruled that a Form 43 must be delivered to the Administrative Law Judge on or before the twenty-eighth day after the employer has received a written notice of claim to be considered timely filed under C.G.S. § 31-294c (b).

Employment – Free Speech Retaliation

Authored By: Lisa M. Gutierrez

Sean Michel v. City of Hartford, 226 Conn. App. 98 (2024).  The plaintiff alleged that while he was employed with the Hartford Police Department, he reported to his supervisor that discrimination on the basis of race was happening to his coworker. The plaintiff’s coworker, on the advice of the plaintiff, reported this discrimination to the police union and internal affairs; the coworker also filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”).  Following these complaints and the plaintiff testifying twice on behalf of his coworker, the plaintiff was removed from supervisory positions as well as certain assignments that would result in overtime compensation, the plaintiff was not selected to become the new commander for his unit, and the plaintiff was assigned to unfavorable shifts. The plaintiff brought suit against his employer, claiming free speech retaliation pursuant to C.G.S. § 31-51q and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At issue on appeal was whether the plaintiff pled sufficient facts to survive a motion to strike pursuant to C.G.S. § 31-51q and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s holding as to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, stating that the plaintiff failed to allege any facts to demonstrate that the officers who engaged in the alleged retaliatory conduct were responsible for establishing final policy with respect to the subject matter in question, and the pattern of misconduct the plaintiff alleged did not establish a custom or practice of infringing on constitutional rights because the alleged misconduct was only directed toward the plaintiff and did not allege other constitutional violations. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s ruling as to C.G.S. § 31-51q, finding that the plaintiff sufficiently pled facts to establish that his deposition testimony was constitutionally protected as speech on a matter of public concern.  Specifically, testifying on behalf of his coworker in discrimination proceedings was not part of the tasks that the plaintiff was paid to perform, and it could be inferred that the plaintiff was speaking out against discrimination in the workplace.  The Appellate Court also settled an open question of statutory construction regarding C.G.S. § 31-51q, which bore a split in authority among the Superior Courts. In reversing the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Court held that the plaintiff was not required to allege facts to establish that his speech did not substantially or materially interfere with his job performance or the working relationship between him and his employer. Instead, the Appellate Court clarified that this argument would be raised by the defendant in a special defense, as the defendant is in a better position to have factual information concerning disruption to the workplace.

Antitrust and Trade Regulation – Litigation Privilege

Authored by: Emiko W. Schaeffer

Deutsche Bank AG v. Vik, 349 Conn. 120 (2024). The plaintiff spent over ten years attempting to collect an approximate $243 million foreign judgment from a nonparty, Sebastian Holdings, Inc. (“SHI”).  The plaintiff was ultimately unsuccessful in piercing SHI’s corporate veil and in holding the defendant, Alexander Vik, jointly and severally liable with SHI for the judgment.  While that case was pending in the trial court, the plaintiff commenced an action against Alexander Vik and his daughter, Caroline Vik, alleging tortious interference with business expectancy and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”) on the basis of their baseless litigation causing shares to drop by over $35 million and a fraudulent right of first refusal manufactured by Caroline Vik.  The defendants moved to dismiss on the grounds of the litigation privilege and the trial court denied the motion. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision and directed the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety.  The Connecticut Supreme Court granted certiorari, limited to the issue of whether the plaintiff’s complaint was barred by the litigation privilege. In holding that the plaintiff’s claims were not barred by the litigation privilege, the Supreme Court pointed to Alexander Vik’s alleged tactics such as disingenuous bidding, depleting the company’s assets, and injecting doubt and uncertainty into the sales process, and found that these activities had no connection or logical relation to any ongoing judicial proceeding.  With respect to Caroline Vik’s claims for immunity, the Supreme Court found that the allegations, which involved Caroline’s involvement in an alleged multifaceted conspiracy and Alexander forging an irrevocable right of first refusal and granting it to Caroline, sounded in extrajudicial misconduct to which the litigation privilege would provide no refuge.