Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the habeas court denying Petitioner's amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the Appellate Court improperly raised and decided the unpreserved issue of waiver without first providing the parties with an opportunity to be heard on that issue.Petitioner pled guilty under the Alford doctrine to one count of home invasion. Thereafter, Petitioner commenced this habeas action alleging that his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion to discuss the home invasion charge. The habeas court denied the petition. The Appellate Court affirmed on an alternative ground, concluding that Petitioner waived his ineffective assistance claim by virtue of the entry and acceptance of his Alford plea. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that because the parties were not provided an opportunity to be heard on waiver it was improper for the Appellate Court to raise and decide that issue. View "Diaz v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress photographs and videos of suspected child pornography that the police recovered from computer equipment and other media storage seized from Defendant's residence pursuant to a search warrant, holding that the search warrant affidavit supported a finding of probable cause.On appeal, Defendant argued that the search warrant was not supported by probable cause because the issuing judge could not reasonably have inferred from descriptions in the affidavit of two photographs of nude children that the photographs were lascivious. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the totality of the circumstances described in the affidavit and the reasonable inferences drawn therefore supported a finding of probable cause to believe that a there was a substantial chance that a search of Defendant's residence would uncover evidence of possession of child pornography. The Court further declined Defendant's invitation to adopt a more demanding standard for assessing whether there is probable cause to issue a search warrant. View "State v. Sawyer" on Justia Law

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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 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 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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In this medical malpractice case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Plaintiffs' motion to set aside the jury's verdict in favor of Defendants, holding that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the doctrine of acceptable alternatives, but the error was harmless, and Plaintiffs' request that the Court abolish the acceptable alternatives doctrine was denied.On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the trial court improperly instructed the jury by including a charge on the acceptable alternatives doctrine because no evidence supported the charge. Alternatively, Plaintiffs asked the Court to abolish the acceptable alternatives doctrine. The Supreme Court affirmed the jury's finding that Plaintiffs failed to establish that Defendants had breached the standard of care, holding (1) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the acceptable alternatives charge, but this instructional error was harmless; and (2) the trial court did not improperly limit Plaintiffs' allegations regarding breach of the standard of care in responding to the jury's request for clarification of the jury instructions. View "Kos v. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court affirming Defendant's conviction of one count of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and four counts of assault in the first degree, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State's late disclosed expert witness to testify without first granting Defendant a reasonable continuance to obtain his own expert, and the error was harmful.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court abused its discretion by permitting the State's expert witness on cell site location information (CSLI) to testify as to what that information revealed about the location of Defendant during the time of the crimes because the State disclosed the expert only one week before evidence started. Defendant argued in the alternative that the court abused its discretion by denying his related motion for a continuance to obtain his own CSLI expert. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court's decision to permit the State's late disclosed expert witness to testify was an abuse of discretion in the absence of affording Defendant a reasonable continuance to obtain his own expert; and (2) the error was harmful, and Defendant was entitled to a new trial. View "State v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of assault in the first degree, holding that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motions seeking public funds to pay for a DNA expert to assist in his defense and to exclude certain evidence.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court (1) abused its discretion and violated his federal and state constitutional rights when it denied his motion for funds for a DNA expert to assist in his defense, and (2) abused its discretion when it denied his motion in limine seeking to preclude certain evidence of the victim's confidence in her identification of Defendant when presented with a photographic array by the police. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) properly denied Defendant's motion for costs to pay for expenses associated with procuring the DNA expert; and (2) did not abuse it discretion in denying Defendant's motion in limine seeking to preclude evidence of the victim's post identification confidence in her identification of Defendant as her attacker. View "State v. White" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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 convicting Defendant of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and related crimes, holding that any violation of Defendant's right to confrontation was harmless and that the trial court's third-party culpability instruction was sufficient.Defendant's convictions arose from a shooting on a crowded street in which a fifteen-year-old boy died and two individuals were seriously injured. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) as to Defendant's argument that the trial court erred in admitting the out-of-court statements of two witnesses identifying Defendant as the shooter, Defendant failed to preserve his hearsay objection, and even if the admission of the out-of-court identifications violated Defendant's right to confrontation, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) the trial court's third-party culpability instruction was sufficient despite the fact that the instruction omitted certain names. View "State v. Edwards" on Justia Law