Municipality Not Entitled to Reimbursement for Workers' Comp Outlay When Firefighter Injured Assisting Another Town's Fire Department

Municipality Not Entitled to Reimbursement for Workers' Comp Outlay When Firefighter Injured Assisting Another Town's Fire Department

In May 2004, a significant fire broke out within a complex of apartments and condos in West Hartford.  The West Hartford fire department responded to the call and soon realized that the size and ferocity of the blaze was beyond its resources.  The officer on the scene requested assistance from the City of Hartford 's (the City) fire department pursuant to an oral mutual aid agreement then in effect between the municipalities.  Derrane, a firefighter employed by the City, was one of a number of City firefighters who were dispatched to help fight the blaze.  Derrane was injured in the course of the event.  He sought and received workers' compensation benefits from the City.  The City, in turn, sought reimbursement from West Hartford under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7-433d, which generally states that where a uniformed member of a paid fire department offers his or her services to another fire company that is actively engaged in fire duties and the firefighter is injured, he or she is entitled to receive benefits as if he or she were a member of the fire department that utilized his or her services. A commissioner ordered West Hartford to reimburse the City for indemnity and medical benefits paid, as well as to assume liability for the remainder of the Derrane's claim, but the Review Board reversed.  The City appealed.

 

Here's what the Court decided:

In Derrane v. City of Hartford, 295 Conn. 35, 2010 Conn. LEXIS 56 (Mar. 2, 2010), the Supreme Court of Connecticut affirmed the decision of the Review Board.  The court indicated that § 7-433d applied only in good Samaritan situations wherein an individual firefighter happened upon a fire in a municipality other than his own, offered his services to the fire department in that municipality, which thereafter accepted the offer of services, and the firefighter was injured while fighting the fire.  The court said that here, Derrane was injured while working his regular shift, in a place he was ordered to be by his superiors, and while performing firefighting duties under their direction and command.  Concluding that § 7-433d did not apply to mutual aid requests handled by paid firefighters, the court indicated Derrane was engaged in activity "arising out of and in the course of his employment" at the time of his injury, and his employer, the City, was liable for workers' compensation benefits without right to reimbursement from West Hartford.  See generally Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, §§ 67.03, 67.06, 78.04.