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Woman who saw husband fatally crushed can't sue for distress

HARTFORD, Conn. – The Connecticut Supreme Court says a woman who found her 77-year-old husband crushed to death under an all-terrain vehicle when she brought him lunch at work cannot sue his employer for emotional distress.

The unanimous decision came Monday in the appeal filed by Jenny Velecela. Her husband, Austin Irwin, was repairing the ATV at All Habitat Services in Branford in July 2011 when it slipped off a lift and killed him. Velecela found him a short time later.

The high court upheld a lower court ruling that Connecticut’s workers compensation law bars Velecela from suing for negligent infliction of bystander emotional distress because she received $300,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for her husband’s death.

Velecela’s lawyer argued the workers’ compensation law doesn’t prohibit bystander emotional distress claims.