Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Bozelko v. Papastavros
Defendant served as Plaintiff’s defense counsel in a criminal jury trial in which Plaintiff was convicted of fourteen offenses. While awaiting sentencing, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant, alleging legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty. After precluding Plaintiff from presenting expert testimony on the issue of causation due to her failure to disclose an expert witness by a date previously ordered, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in concluding that expert testimony was necessary to prove her allegations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that expert testimony was required for Plaintiff to establish the element of causation in her legal malpractice case. View "Bozelko v. Papastavros" on Justia Law
Pacific Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Champion Steel, LLC
James Doughty was injured during the course of his employment with Connecticut Reliable Welding, LLC (Reliable). Pacific Insurance Company, Ltd. (Pacific) had issued an insurance policy providing workers’ compensation coverage to Reliable and, therefore, paid Doughty workers’ compensation benefits. Pacific brought this action against Defendants - steel and construction companies - alleging negligence. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that that Pacific did not have standing to bring an action under either Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-293 or the common law doctrine of equitable subrogation. Pacific filed a motion to substitute Reliable as the party plaintiff. The trial court denied Pacific’s motion and granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss the complaint. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a workers’ compensation insurer can maintain an equitable subrogation claim against third-party tortfeasors to recover benefits it has paid on behalf of an insured employer to an injured employee, and therefore, Pacific can properly assert an equitable subrogation claim. Remanded. View "Pacific Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Champion Steel, LLC" on Justia Law
Velecela v. All Habitat Servs., LLC
Plaintiff’s husband was employed by Defendant. Plaintiff discovered her husband’s dead body beneath a vehicle when bringing lunch to him at work. Plaintiff received survivors’ benefits under Defendant’s workers’ compensation insurance policy. Thereafter, Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligent infliction of bystander emotional distress. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on the language of the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act and the derivative nature of claims for bystander emotional distress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the Act applies to the parties in this case and there is a causal link between Plaintiff’s claim for bystander emotional distress and a compensable injury, Plaintiff’s claim was barred. View "Velecela v. All Habitat Servs., LLC" on Justia Law
Gonzalez v. O. & G. Indus., Inc.
Defendant served as the general contractor for the construction of a gas fired power plant and implemented a contractor controlled insurance program (CCIP) to centralize the purchasing of workers’ compensation insurance for the project. Plaintiffs, employees of Defendant’s subcontractors, were injured at an explosion that occurred at the power plant construction site. Plaintiffs received workers’ compensation benefits under the CCIP. Plaintiffs subsequently brought this action against Defendant under Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-293(a), asserting negligence and strict liability claims. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that Defendant “paid” workers’ compensation benefits to Plaintiffs, thus entitling it to “principal employer” immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court erred in interpreting the term “paid compensation benefits” in section 31-291; but (2) even under the proper construction of section 31-291, no genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Defendant paid compensation benefits to Plaintiffs. View "Gonzalez v. O. & G. Indus., Inc." on Justia Law
Cefaratti v. Aranow
Plaintiffs filed suit against Jonathan S. Aranow, Shoreline, and Middlesex, alleging that Aranow had left a surgical sponge in plaintiff’s abdominal cavity during gastric bypass surgery. She further alleged that Middlesex was both directly liable for its own negligence and vicariously liable for Aranow’s negligence, and Shoreline was vicariously liable for Aranow’s negligence. At issue is whether plaintiff’s medical malpractice action is barred by the statute of limitations or, instead, the statute of limitations was tolled under the continuing course of treatment doctrine. The court concluded that, to establish that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether the continuing course of treatment doctrine tolled the statute of limitations, plaintiff was required only to present evidence that her abdominal discomfort was caused by the sponge and that she sought continuing treatment for her discomfort from Aranow. In this case, the court concluded that plaintiff has established that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the doctrine applies. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court that plaintiff’s action was barred by the statute of limitations. View "Cefaratti v. Aranow" on Justia Law
Izzarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Plaintiff, a former smoker and cancer survivor, brought an action in federal district court against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company pursuant to Connecticut’s Product Liability Act under theories of strict liability and negligent design. At trial, evidence was presented that Defendant purposefully manufactured cigarettes to increase daily consumption without regard to the resultant increase in exposure to carcinogens. After a jury trial, the district court rendered judgment in Plaintiff’s favor. Defendant appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that Plaintiff’s product liability cause of action was foreclosed by comment (i) to section 402A of the Restatement (Second), Torts because comment (i) precludes liability of a seller of good tobacco. The Second Court certified to the Supreme Court a question of law regarding the preclusive effect of comment (i) on a strict product liability claim. The Supreme Court held (1) the modified consumer expectation test is the Court’s primary strict product liability test and the sole test applicable to this case; and (2) because the obvious danger exceptions to strict liability in comment (i), including “[g]ood tobacco,” are not dispositive under the multifactor modified consumer expectation test, comment (i) did not preclude a lawsuit in this case. View "Izzarelli v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co." on Justia Law
Lewis v. Clarke
Plaintiffs filed an action against Defendant alleging that they sustained injuries as a result of Defendant’s negligence. The accident underlying Plaintiffs’ claims occurred while Defendant was acting within the scope of his employment with the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, asserting that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because he was entitled to tribal sovereign immunity on Plaintiffs’ claims. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss on the basis that Plaintiffs sought money damages from Defendant personally, not from the Authority. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity extended to Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendant because Defendant was an employee of the Mohegan Tribe and was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred. View "Lewis v. Clarke" on Justia Law
Lawrence v. O & G Indus., Inc.
Plaintiffs in these two civil actions were employed in numerous trades at the Kleen Energy power plant construction project in the City of Middletown. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit against the general contractor of the construction project and other defendants, alleging that Defendants’ negligence caused a gas explosion, which resulted in the termination of Plaintiffs’ gainful employment at the power plant site and economic losses in the form of past and future lost wages. The trial court granted Defendants’ motions to strike the applicable counts of Plaintiffs’ complaints, concluding that Defendants did not owe Plaintiffs a duty of care. Specifically, the trial court determined that “public policy is not served by expanding the defendants’ liability to purely economic claims such as those asserted by the plaintiffs.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly granted Defendants’ motions to strike, as Defendants did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiffs, who were employees that sustained only economic losses as a result of the explosion. View "Lawrence v. O & G Indus., Inc." on Justia Law
Gleason v. Smolinski
When thirty-one-year-old Bill Smolinski disappeared, Defendants, Bill’s mother and sister, began to pressure Plaintiff, Bill’s former girlfriend, into cooperating with the investigation by saying disparaging things to Plaintiff’s acquaintances and posting missing person flyers depicting Bill along Plaintiff’s school bus route and near her home. Plaintiff brought this action claiming defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court entered judgment awarding Plaintiff compensatory and punitive damages on her claims. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial court’s findings on Plaintiff’s claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress did not consider - and were not consistent with - the First Amendment limitations placed on these torts. View "Gleason v. Smolinski" on Justia Law
Campos v. Coleman
The named plaintiff, in her individual capacity and in her capacity as administratrix of the estate of her late husband, and the couple’s three children, brought this action against Defendants, alleging wrongful death and including claims for the children’s loss of parental consortium. Defendants filed a motion to strike the loss of parental consortium claims in accordance with Mendillo v. Board of Education, which the trial court granted. The jury then returned a verdict for the plaintiffs on the remainder of the claims. At issue on appeal was whether the Supreme Court should overrule the holding in Mendillo, in which the Court declined to recognize a derivative cause of action for loss of parental consortium by a minor child. The Court concluded that it should and therefore reversed the judgment with respect to the claims for loss of parental consortium, holding (1) Mendillo’s holding is overruled, and the Court now recognizes a cause of action by a minor child for loss of parental consortium resulting from an injury to a parent, subject to certain limitations; and (2) the holding recognizing a cause of action for loss of parental consortium applies to the present case. View "Campos v. Coleman" on Justia Law