Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
by
The Commissioner of Children and Families filed a neglect petition seeking an order of temporary custody of Cassandra C., a minor, after medical providers reported that Cassandra and her mother were refusing to obtain appropriate medical treatment for Cassandra, who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The trial court granted the order and placed Cassandra in the temporary custody of the Department of Children and Families, directing Respondents to cooperate with Cassandra’s medical care providers. Thereafter, Cassandra started chemotherapy but ran away before the treatment could be completed. The Commissioner moved to reopen the evidence to consider evidence regarding whether Cassandra was competent to make life-death decisions regarding her medical care. After a hearing, the trial judge ordered that Cassandra remain in the custody of the Department and authorized the Department to make all medical decisions for her. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge’s finding that Cassandra was not competent to make her own medical decisions at the time of the underlying events was not clearly erroneous; (2) this was not a proper case in which to decide whether to adopt the mature minor doctrine, which allows a sufficiently mature minor to refuse medical treatment; and (3) Respondents’ constitutional rights were not violated. View "In re Cassandra C." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed, among other claims, state law claims for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Defendant, a health care provider, alleging that Defendant improperly breached the confidentiality of Plaintiff’s medical records in the course of complying with a subpoena. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff’s negligence based claims, concluding that they were preempted by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which lacks a private right of action and preempts contrary state laws. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that HIPAA did not preempt Plaintiff’s state common-law causes of action for negligence or negligent infliction of emotional distress against Defendant because (1) Connecticut’s common law provides a remedy for a health care provider’s breach of confidentiality in the course of complying with a subpoena; and (2) HIPAA and its implementing regulations may be utilized to inform the standard of care applicable to claims arising from allegations of negligence in the disclosure of patients’ medical records pursuant to a subpoena. View "Byrne v. Avery Ctr. for Obstetrics & Gynecology, P.C." on Justia Law

by
The decedent in this case was stillborn. Plaintiffs, as coadministrators of the estate of the decedent, filed this action against Defendants, who provided prenatal care to the decedent’s mother, alleging that Defendants’ negligent failure to diagnose and treat the mother’s gestational diabetes caused the decedent’s stillbirth. At the close of Plaintiffs’ evidence the trial court granted Defendants' motion for a directed verdict, concluding that Plaintiffs had insufficient evidence to establish their claims. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in precluding two of their expert witnesses - physicians board certified in obstetrics and gynecology - from opining that the mother’s untreated gestational diabetes caused the decedent’s stillbirth. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in precluding the expert testimony on the basis that the expert witnesses were not qualified to render an opinion on the cause of the decedent’s stillbirth. Remanded. View "Weaver v. McKnight" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, Leslie Milliun's conservator, filed a negligence suit against Defendant hospital, alleging that, while in Defendant's care, Leslie suffered severe respiratory dysfunction which resulted in Leslie's severe brain injury. The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of Defendant because Plaintiff failed to offer the requisite expert testimony to create an issue of material fact regarding Defendant's alleged negligence as the proximate cause of Leslie's injuries. The appellate court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in (1) refusing to admit certain medical records of Leslie's treating physicians as expert opinion on causation, and (2) concluding that its order granting Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of a commission so Leslie's out-of-state treating physicians could be deposed should be withdrawn because the physicians could not be compelled to offer expert opinion on causation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appellate court properly determined that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to admit certain statements contained within the medical records to establish a causal connection between Leslie's injuries and the alleged negligence.View "Milliun v. New Milford Hosp." on Justia Law

by
Decedent admitted herself to Hospital for treatment for major depression and personality disorder. At the time of her admission, Decedent was diagnosed with high suicide ideation and had previously attempted suicide. One week later, Decedent committed suicide at Hospital. Plaintiff, the executor of Decedent's estate, filed a medical malpractice action against Hospital and Decedent's treating psychiatrist. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants. The appellate court remanded the case for a new trial, concluding that the trial court improperly declined to the poll the jury to determine whether any of the jurors had read an article regarding the subject matter of the case published prior to trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the appellate court improperly determined that the trial judge abused his discretion in declining to poll the jury. View "Kervick v. Silver Hill Hosp." on Justia Law

by
Doctor was a physician who worked for Hospital on a study he claimed would assist in the treatment of children with abnormally low rates of growth. In actuality, Doctor was a child pornographer and pedophile and used the study as a cover to recruit and sexually exploit hundreds of children. The named plaintiff (Plaintiff), one of the exploited children, brought this action against Hospital alleging (1) Hospital negligently failed to supervise Doctor's activities in connection with the study, and (2) Hospital breached the special duty of care it owed to children in its custody. The trial court rendered judgment for Plaintiff on both claims and awarded him $2,750,000. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in its instructions to the jury. View "Doe v. Saint Francis Hosp. & Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

by
Claimant brought a claim before the Claims Commissioner seeking damages from the State as the coadministrator of the estate of her deceased daughter, who had died while confined in a correctional institution. In the course of Claimant's case, the Commissioner issued subpoenas to the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital requesting information about the decedent's treatment there. The Hospital refused to comply with the subpoena, arguing that the Commissioner had no authority to issue subpoenas to nonparties. The trial court enforced the Commissioner's subpoena, and the appellate court affirmed. Subsequently to the Supreme Court's certification of the Hospital's appeal, Claimant settled underlying case, and consequently, the State no longer sought to enforce the subpoenas. The Supreme Court dismissed the Hospital's appeal as moot and vacated the judgments of the lower courts, as the Court could no longer grant relief. View "State v. Charlotte Hungerford Hosp." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed a complaint with the department of labor against her employer (Employer), alleging a violation of the Connecticut family and medical leave statute, which applies only to employers that employer seventy-five or more employees. Although Employer employed more than 1,000 employees nationwide, the commissioner of labor dismissed the complaint on the ground that the leave statute does not apply to Employer because it does not employ seventy-five or more employees within the state of Connecticut. The trial court sustained Plaintiff's appeal and rendered judgment in Plaintiff's favor, concluding that all employees of a business are to be counted in determining whether the business is an employer under the leave statute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section Conn. Agencies Regs. 31-51qq-42, which has the force and effect of a statute, makes clear that only Connecticut employees are to be counted under the leave statute. View "Velez v. Comm'r of Labor" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, an obstetrician and gynecologist, contending that Defendant's failure to advise her that she should have her ovaries removed due to a family history of cancer resulted in her developing ovarian cancer. After a jury trial, the trial court found in favor of Plaintiff. Defendant appealed, arguing primarily that the trial court improperly permitted expert testimony and instructed the jury in a manner consistent with a claim of traditional medical negligence and asserting that Plaintiff's complaint necessarily sounded exclusively in informed consent rather than in medical negligence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, inter alia, that the trial court's decisions were proper because Plaintiff's complaint properly alleged medical negligence. View "Downs v. Trias" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff in this case was a physician who was granted clinical privileges as a member of Defendant hospital's medical staff beginning in 1974. The hospital declined to renew Plaintiff's privileges for 1984. In response to the nonrenewal of privileges, Plaintiff brought an action against the hospital seeking damages and injunctive relief for his loss of gross income. The trial court rendered judgment awarding Plaintiff nominal damages only. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's denial of injunctive relief but reversed the part of the judgment awarding nominal damages, concluding that the trial court should have deemed Plaintiff a lost volume seller and awarded him damages equal to his lost profits in 1984 only. The Supreme Court determined that the appellate court had incorrectly concluded that Plaintiff was a lost volume seller and incorrectly determined that Plaintiff was entitled to damages for lost profits in 1984 only. On remand, the trial court found that Plaintiff was a lost volume seller and awarded him damages in the amount of $258,610. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in its judgment. View "Gianetti v. Norwalk Hosp. " on Justia Law