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Connecticut Supreme Court sides with widow in Workers' Comp case over husband's alleged asbestos-related death

State Supreme Court

By Charmaine Little | Oct 3, 2018

Asbestos 04

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) – On Sept. 18, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed a Compensation Review Board’s decision that would award a widow with Workers’ Compensation benefits after it was determined her husband’s passing from lung cancer was work-related.

“The board correctly determined that the defendants were collaterally estopped from litigating the issue of causation with respect to the plaintiff’s claims for benefits under the state act,” the court stated. 

It added that an administrative judge who first approved the benefits petition was correct after they determined the cancer was work-related. The court also said while the defendant argued it was entitled to litigation for the state act, the defendant actually received it previously in the matters concerning the federal benefits.

“Because there was no universal causation standard under the federal act, the parties actually litigated the issue of causation in the federal proceeding, and the standard of causation that the administrative law judge applied was necessary to his decision concerning compensability...,” the court added.

Katherine Filosi sued Electric Boat Corp. on behalf of her late husband, Donald L. Filosi Jr. She had already been awarded benefits through the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act after her husband died from lung cancer. 

She alleges his illness was directly caused after he was exposed to asbestos during his time of working for Electric Boat Corp. She later requested benefits under the state Workers’ Compensation Act. The Compensation Review Board backed those benefits, and the Supreme Court affirmed.

Donald Filosi worked for the Electric Boat Corp.’s Groton shipyard from 1961 and retired in 1998, the ruling states. During his time there, it was alleged he was exposed to asbestos and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012. He died later that year. It was also noted Katherine Filosi passed away during the legal matter and Daniel Filosi took her place as the plaintiff as of March 21, 2016.

Earlier in the legal back-and-forth, an administrative judge was the first to legally agree with Katherine Filosi that she showed enough proof that her late husband’s lung cancer diagnosis was work-related. 

The defendant argued it should be allowed litigation to challenge the causation issue, stating that Katherine Filosi should have had a higher burden of proof. It said since the federal act calls for a lower standard of causation compared to the state act, it should have been allowed to litigate further.

The Workers’ Compensation commission agreed with the defendant and said the administrative law judge didn’t properly define the requirements of proving casual connection under the federal act. While the commissioner said Katherine Filosi failed to prove Donald Filosi’s lung cancer was work-related, she brought the case before the Compensation Review Board. 

That entity sided with her and said she did indeed meet the standard when it comes to proving causation and reversed the commissioner’s decision, putting the administrative judge’s ruling back into play.

The defendant was then the one to appeal the case, bringing it to the current court, where the Supreme Court affirmed the board’s decision.

Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson, Justices Richard N. Palmer, Andrew J. McDonald, Raheem L. Mullins and Mario Araujo Kahn concurred.

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