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Widow Can’t Pursue Claim That Stress Killed Judge

HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) - The Connecticut Supreme Court rejected a widow's claim that her husband's fatal heart attack was caused by the stress of working as a superior court judge.

Judge Frank J. Kinney Jr. died on Sept. 28, 1987 from a heart attack. His wife, Joan Kinney, filed a workers' compensation claim alleging that his death was caused by work-induced stress.

The workers' compensation commissioner awarded Kinney the maximum allowable workers' compensation benefits based on the conclusion that her husband was considered an employee for the purposes of the Act.

The state challenged the validity of that decision, arguing that a state court judge does not have an employer-employee relationship with the state.

After a series of rulings for the state, Kinney petitioned the claims commissioner for permission to sue the state for negligence, claiming she was able to do so under a "special act" allowing her to file an otherwise untimely claim. The state Legislature had approved the special act in June 1994, nearly eight years after the judge's death.

The high court rejected Kinney's asserted right to sue, ruling that the special act lacked a "legitimate public purpose" and "essentially would eliminate for her alone the consequences of her litigation choice and would provide no relief to anyone else" in similar circumstances.

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