Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court declining to review Plaintiff's claim that the trial court improperly rejected her request to instruct the jury that Defendants had a nondelegable duty to maintain the premises where she slipped and fell, holding that the Appellate Court erred in concluding that the general verdict rule barred appellate review of Plaintiff's jury instruction claim.Plaintiff sued Defendants, her landlords, for injuries she suffered when she slipped and fell on a staircase outside of her apartment building. The trial court entered judgment for Defendants. Plaintiff appealed, challenging the trial court's refusal to instruct the jury that Defendants, as the possessors of real property, had a nondelegable duty to maintain the premises. The Appellate Court declined to review Plaintiff's claims, concluding that because Plaintiff failed to object when the trial court denied her request to submit her proposed interrogatories to the jury the general verdict rule applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the general verdict rule did not apply because Plaintiff had requested that the trial court submit her properly framed interrogatories to the jury and had objected when it denied her request. View "Garcia v. Cohen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Compensation Review Board, which vacated the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commissioner dismissing Plaintiff's claim for benefits brought pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-433c(a), holding that Plaintiff met the jurisdictional prerequisites of section 7-433c and that, on remand, the Commissioner shall determine whether Plaintiff's hypertension was a substantial factor in his subsequent development of heart disease.The Commissioner found that Plaintiff was not entitled to benefits for heart disease because he failed to file a notice of new claim within one year of his diagnosis. In making this finding, the Commissioner rejected Plaintiff's argument that his heart disease diagnosis was the sequela of his compensable claim for hypertension. The Board vacated the Commissioner's dismissal because the Commissioner did not present findings as to whether Plaintiff's heart disease was caused by his hypertension or constituted a new injury. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the case, holding (1) when a plaintiff has a compensable claim for hypertension under section 7-433c, the plaintiff may also be eligible for benefits for subsequent heart disease if his heart disease is causally related to his hypertension; and (2) Plaintiff was not required to file a notice of new claim in order to pursue benefits for his heart disease. View "Dickerson v. Stamford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Compensation Review Board, which reversed the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commissioner denying benefits to Plaintiff pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-433c(a), holding that the Board incorrectly determined that Plaintiff's heart disease claim was untimely.The Commissioner found that Plaintiff was neither diagnosed with heart disease nor filed a claim for that disease under section 7-433c until after he had retired. Therefore, the Commissioner concluded that Plaintiff's disease and resulting disability were not suffered while Plaintiff was employed by Defendant and that even if Plaintiff was developing heart disease while he was employed by Defendant that was not sufficient to make the claim compensable. The Board reversed, concluding that it was reasonable to infer that Plaintiff's heart disease was the sequela of his accepted claim under section 7-433c for hypertension. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff's initial claim for hypertension met the requirements of section 7-433c, was timely, and was compensable; and (2) the Board reasonably concluded that Plaintiff's heart disease was the sequela of his hypertension, which was the injury at issue in his primary claim. View "Coughlin v. Stamford Fire Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that a motor vehicle accident occurred on the last day of the thirty-day limitation period of Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-60(a) because the day during which Defendant loaned the license plate displayed on one of the vehicles involved in the accident was not included in the calculation of the thirty-day period, holding that the term "days" means a full calendar day rather than a fraction of a day.Plaintiffs each commenced an action against Defendant, a motor vehicle dealer, following a fatal vehicle accident, alleging that Defendant had loaned the dealer plates in violation of section 14-60. The trial court rendered judgment in each case for Defendant, concluding that the accident occurred on the thirtieth day after Defendant loaned the plate, within the thirty-day time limit of section 14-60(a). The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the appellate court correctly excluded the date of the loan from the computation of the thirty-day period under section 14-60(a); and (2) therefore, the accident occurred within the thirty-day limitation period of section 14-60(a). View "Rutter v. Janis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying certain defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint, holding that Defendants were not entitled to sovereign immunity.Plaintiffs, the parents of four school-age children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, brought this action seeking judgment from the City of Norwalk's Board of Education and three of its members. Plaintiffs alleged that the negligent hiring and supervision of Stacy Lore, who was hired to provide autism related services to children in the school district, proximately caused them to suffer permanent and ongoing injuries and losses. The Board filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and, in the alternative, claiming that the doctrine of sovereign immunity mandated dismissal of the claims. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss on the ground that Plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Supreme Court affirmed but on other grounds, holding (1) the trial court improperly dismissed this action on the ground that Plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies; and (2) the Board and its members were not entitled to sovereign immunity because they were acting under the control of, and as an agent of, the municipality rather than the state. View "Graham v. Friedlander" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment in this action to recover damages for, among other things, violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq., and for other relief, holding that Defendant's statements regarding Plaintiff were nonactionable expressions of opinion.Defendant, which publishes research reports in which it rates certain vendors, issued a research report in which it ranked Plaintiff lower than some of its competitors and made critical comments about Plaintiff. Plaintiff brought this action claiming that Defendant had engaged in a "pay to play" scheme that constituted a false and deceptive business practice under CUTPA. Plaintiff also alleged that the report contained false and defamatory statements about Plaintiff. The trial court rendered judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that all of the statements Defendant made about Plaintiff were expressions of nonactionable opinion, and such speech cannot support either Plaintiff's defamation claim or its CUTPA claim. View "Netscout Systems, Inc. v. Gartner, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's judgment rendered in favor of Defendant after the jury found that, although Defendant had perpetrated an intentional assault and battery on Plaintiff, his use of physical force was justified, holding that the trial court improperly instructed the jury, but the error was harmless.Specifically, the jury found that because Plaintiff was trespassing at the time of the incident and Defendant was acting in the defense of others, Defendant's use of physical force against Plaintiff was justified. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on criminal trespass and defense of premises, but the improper jury instruction was harmless because the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's independent finding with respect to the special defense of defense of others; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding that Defendant was acting in defense of others when he used physical force against Plaintiff. View "Burke v. Mesniaeff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court after concluding that expert testimony was necessary to establish the standard of care in this negligence action, holding that, under the facts of this case, expert testimony was not necessary.Plaintiffs, a minor child, by and through her mother, alleged that the City of Waterbury and the Waterbury Board of Education were negligent for injuries sustained by the child during recess at a Waterbury public school. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the trial court improperly found in the absence of expert testimony that Defendants breached their duty of care to the child on the basis that there was an inadequate number of adults on the playground to supervise the students at the time the child was injured. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the fact finder here did not need to apply scientific or specialized knowledge to determine whether Defendants adequately supervised the children in this case. View "Osborn v. Waterbury" on Justia Law

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In this action to recover damages for personal injuries resulting from an allegedly defective product the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that the amendment to the statute of repose in Number 17-97 of the 2017 Public Acts (P.A. 17-97) retroactively applied to Plaintiff's claims.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the statute of repose applied to her product liability claims is unconstitutional because it creates two classes of claimants - employees subject to a ten-year statute of repose and nonemployees not subject to the statute of repose if the claimant shows the product was within its useful safe life when the injury occurred. While Defendants' motions for summary judgment were pending the legislature enacted P.A. 17-97, which combined the two classes of claimants by removing the limitation provision applicable to employees. The trial court concluded that P.A. 17-97 was not retroactive and applied the ten-year statute of repose to bar Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the amendment to the statute of repose in P.A. 17-97 retroactively applied to Plaintiff's claims. The Court remanded to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the injury occurred during the safe life of the product. View "King v. Volvo Excavators AB" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendants' motions for summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiff's claim that Defendants' negligent disposal of cigarettes inside an abandoned, privately owned mill in the town ignited a fire that destroyed both the mill and a sewage line in the basement of the mill, holding that Plaintiff was entitled to the benefit of the alternative liability doctrine for the purpose of proving its case at trial.In granting summary judgment, the trial court found that Plaintiff, Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, as subrogee of its insured, the town of Somers, could not establish which of the defendants' cigarettes had sparked the blaze and therefore could not establish causation. In so holding, the trial court refused Plaintiff's request that it adopt the alternative liability doctrine, as set forth in section 433 B(3) of the Restatement (Second). The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) when three threshold requirements have been met, the alternative liability doctrine should be recognized as a limited exception to the general rule that the plaintiff in a negligence action must prove that each of the defendants caused the plaintiff's harm; and (2) the three requirements for application of the doctrine were met in this case. View "Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury