Attorney General: Honorable Bessye Bennett, Commission on Victim Services, 1992-011 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

April 21, 1992

Honorable Bessye Bennett
Commission on Victim Services
1155 Silas Deane Highway
Wethersfield, CT 06109

Dear Commissioner Bennett:

We are in receipt of a letter dated December 3, 1991, from the Commission's Administrator, John C. Ford, with an attached letter dated October 21, 1991, from Dr. Roger J. Harris.

Briefly stated, we understand the relevant facts to be that, pursuant to Conn.Gen.Stat. 54-204, an individual filed an application for compensation with the Commission on Victim Services. In his application, the individual alleged that he was the victim of an assault and had sustained personal injuries. The individual sought an award of compensation from the Commission.

An oral surgeon provided medical care to the individual for injuries he sustained during the alleged assault. The individual has not paid the doctor for his professional services. The bills for these services were submitted by the individual in partial support of his application for compensation from the Commission.

The Commission, upon investigation of the individual's application, denied him an award of compensation pursuant to Conn.Gen.Stat. 54-208(c) on the basis of his failure to cooperate with law enforcement officials in their investigation of the alleged assault. Through letter dated May 6, 1988, the individual was notified of this administrative action and was informed of his right to an administrative hearing before the Commission if he desired to contest the denial of compensation. (Exh. 1). Mr. Ford states in his December 3, 1991, letter that "[t]he applicant never responded and is unknown as to his whereabouts."

The issue on which you seek our guidance is whether the Commission must conduct an administrative hearing on the individual's application based upon the oral surgeon's letter dated October 21, 1991, which your agency interprets as a request for such a hearing.

Our analysis of this issue must first begin with an identification of the status of the oral surgeon in relation to the individual and his application for compensation. In this regard, Conn.Gen.Stat. 54-204(a) provides that "[a]ny person who may be eligible for compensation or restitution services, or both, pursuant to this chapter may make application therefore to the Commission. If the person entitled to make application is a minor or incompetent person, the application may be made on his behalf by his parent, guardian or other legal representative." (emphasis added) It would appear from the facts presented that the oral surgeon does not stand in statutorily enumerated relationships to the applicant, nor was he granted party or intervener status, in the administrative proceeding. See Conn.Gen.Stat. 4-177a. Rather, as previously stated, his present status is essentially that of a creditor of the applicant. The oral surgeon would therefore not be entitled to seek compensation on behalf of the applicant

Mr. Ford questions whether Conn.Gen.Stat. 54-208(a) confers authority upon the oral surgeon to request a formal hearing on behalf of the applicant. This statutory provision provides, in relevant part that:

If a person is injured or killed as provided in section 54-209, the commission may order the payment of compensation in accordance with the provisions of this chapter: ... (2) in the case of personal injury of the victim, to any person responsible for the maintenance of the victim who has suffered pecuniary loss as a result of such injury...."

In evaluating the meaning of 54-208(a)(2), we are guided by two firmly established principles of law.

It is a cardinal rule of construction that statutes are to be construed so that they carry out the intent of the legislature. This intent is to be ascertained from the language of the statute itself, if the language is plain and unambiguous. Where the legislative intent is clear there is no room for statutory construction. We must construe the act as we find it, without reference to whether we think it would have been or could be improved by the inclusion of other provisions. (Citations omitted).

Johnson v. Manson, 196 Conn. 309, 314-315, 493 A.2d 846 (1985).

It is clear that an administrative body must act strictly within its statutory authority, within constitutional limitations and in a lawful manner.... It cannot modify, abridge or otherwise change the statutory provisions, under which it acquires authority unless the statutes expressly grant it that power. (Citations omitted).

Castro v. Viera, 207 Conn. 420, 428, 541 A.2d 1216 (1988).

We believe that Conn.Gen.Stat. 54-208(a) does not authorize a third party creditor to act on behalf of the victim (applicant). Rather the provision merely permits the Commission to order payment directly to a "person responsible for the maintenance of a victim who has suffered pecuniary loss as a result of such injury...." In this regard an administrative agency "must act strictly within its statutory authority...." Castro v. Viera, supra .

Accordingly, based upon the foregoing analysis, it is our opinion that the oral surgeon does not have the requisite standing to act on the behalf of the victim. Further, he possesses no independent authority as a third party creditor to request a formal hearing on the application of the alleged victim.

Very truly yours,

Richard Blumenthal
Attorney General

Peter E. Wiese
Assistant Attorney General

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