The Connecticut Supreme Court, in a decision that will be officially released next week (but released this morning), held that an animal control officer for several towns, was an employee of each of the towns.
Because of the creation of an employer/employee relationship, her claims that she was injured on the job (she suffered a serious ankle injury) are barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act.
The case, Rettig v. Town of Woodbridge (download here), has important implications as municipalities in Connecticut — looking to share expenses — move to regionalization of services.
In this case, the employee had already settled a workers compensation claim against the district animal control for $800,000. Nevertheless, she continued to bring negligence and nuisance claims against the towns as well.
The employee claimed that the structure of the animal control district meant the towns were trying to insulate themselves from claims. The Court rejected that argument saying that the towns were responsible for all of the expenses of the animal control district, including the employee’s employment.
As a result, the plaintiff could not pursue claims against the town; her claims were barred by the Workers’ Compensation Act exclusivity provisions.
The Court concluded that there was no real difference between, say, board of education employees, and regional district employees; both are still employees of the town.
For towns that continue to look to regionalization of services, this case provides them with strong support for that approach with the understanding that they will not be on the hook for claims by employees, aside from the workers compensation act.