Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Requirements for Medical Malpractice Actions in Connecticut

An opinion letter written by a similar health care provider is a prerequisite to filing a medical malpractice action in Connecticut. Without the opinion letter, the case will be subject to dismissal. This has been the state of the law since October of 2005, when in response to the increasing costs of malpractice insurance,  the Connecticut legislature enacted Public Act 05-275, which added the opinion letter requirement to Sec. 52-190a. Thus, Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 52-190a now requires that a medical malpractice plaintiff attach a letter by a similar health care provider attesting to the medical negligence, or deviation from the standard of care by the physician, nurse, or hospital. 

While “similar health care provider” is defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 52-184c(c), for the purposes of the certificate of good faith, the Connecticut Supreme Court effectively narrowed who could qualify as such in Bennett v. New Milford Hosp., Inc., 300 Conn. 1 (2011). In Bennett, the plaintiff’s decedent died following allegedly negligent treatment at the hospital following a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff attached an opinion letter from a physician to his complaint alleging medical malpractice against an emergency room doctor. The defendant argued that the physician was not a similar health care provider within the meaning of 52-190a because while the physician had emergency medicine experience, the physician was not board certified in emergency medicine. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for failing to provide a letter from a similar health care provider. This was the case in spite of the fact that the doctor who authored the letter may have been qualified to testify at trial.

A letter from a similar health care provider is a critical element to commence your medical malpractice action. Without it, it may be unlikely that you can go forward. If you think you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that legal action is taken in a timely manner and that the requirements of 52-190 are met.