A U.S. District Court judge for the District of Connecticut on Monday granted Hanover Insurance Co.’s motion to dismiss a workers’ compensation claim brought by a man who failed to file a prerequisite form.
Judge Vanessa Bryant declined to exercise jurisdiction at the U.S. District Court House in Hartford for “constitutional and prudential reasons,” ruling that the federal court had no subject matter jurisdiction because the claims were not ripe, or ready for judicial intervention. She dismissed the case without prejudice, but left the door open for the matter to go before the Worker’s Compensation Commission.
“In essence, timing is everything,” Bryant wrote in the decision issued Monday.
The case pitted Hanover Insurance Co. against plaintiff John Millo.
Hanover Insurance had made workers’ compensation payments to Millo, a Housatonic Insurance and Financial Service employee, for two injuries he sustained while working in 2010 and 2012. But it stopped making payments after discovering in 2017 that Millo had failed to file a Form 75, which the insurance carrier stated meant that Millo indicated he didn’t accept the provisions of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act.
Millo had sought $250,000, in addition to payments for outstanding medical bills. His suit did not describe his injuries, except to say they occurred on the job. He argued Hanover Insurance’s denial of the claims based on the missing Form 75 led him to incur litigation costs. He argued it was an act of bad faith by the insurance carrier and a violation of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Millo also alleged negligence on the part of Hanover, stating he was responsible for medical expenses, including the cost of medications and payments to physicians and physical therapists. He argued he would suffer harm if the court allowed the insurer to continue to deny his claim, leaving him saddled with the costs.
But his suit seemed to have preceded any harm.
“Millo has not yet ‘suffered an injury in fact,’ because his injury has not yet occurred,” Bryant ruled.
As for the missing paperwork the insurer claimed Millo failed to file, the federal judge suggested it might present an issue best raised in Connecticut’s high court.
“The question of whether Form 75 is a prerequisite to a sole proprietors’ eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits raises a significant question of state law,” the judge wrote. “Resolution of that issue would impact on the scope and operation of the workers’ compensation program, which is the subject of a comprehensive state statutory scheme. Accordingly, faced with answering that question, this court would consider whether the issue should be certified to the Connecticut Supreme Court.”
Steven Ouellette of Ouellette, Deganis & Gallagher in Cheshire represented Millo. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Hanover’s attorney, Wystan Ackerman of Robinson & Cole, declined to comment.