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Med Mal Complaint Dismissed; Failed to Submit Expert Similar to Emergency Providers


A man presented to the hospital with air in his lungs. He was admitted for treatment at a hospital where an emergency room physician rendered care. He was subsequently transferred to another hospital where a second emergency room physician rendered care. The man later died.

 

The man’s estate sued the hospitals and doctors for wrongful death. The complaint alleged that the man’s death was caused by the negligence, carelessness, and breach of the duty of care of the hospitals through their agents, servants, and employees. The complaint also alleged that the man’s death was caused by the negligence, carelessness, and breach of the duty of care of the doctors. Attached to the complaint was a document entitled “Medical Evaluation Report” authored by a physician. The letter’s stationary indicated that its author was certified as a specialist by various American boards of medicine, However, the specialty of emergency medicine was not one of the many listed certifications.

 

The hospitals and doctors moved to dismiss the estate’s complaint on the grounds that the opinion letter did not comply with the statutory requirements because it was not authored by a similar health care provider.

 

The estate filed an objection to the motion to dismiss and attached an affidavit made by the opinion letter author and his curriculum vitae. In the affidavit, the author stated that he “previously and currently [performs] physician responsibilities in a hospital emergency room department and [has] experience in providing emergency medical care.” The author further stated that he “[had] been previously called upon to assist emergency room physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of patients....” He also stated that “[a]s a board certified physician in internal medicine, family medicine, and other specialty areas, [he had] been trained to perform medical diagnosis and treatment in different settings including emergency department settings ....”

 

The New Haven Superior Court dismissed the action on the ground that the estate failed to file a written opinion of a similar health care as required by statute. The trial court noted that the record failed to show that the opinion letter author was board certified in emergency medicine.

 

The Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed. The court held that the opinion letter submitted by the estate was not from a similar health care provider.

 

The opinion letter submitted by the estate was not from a similar health care provider. Because the emergency room doctors were certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine, were trained and experienced in emergency medicine, and held themselves out as specialists, pursuant to the plain language of §§ 52–190a (a) and 52–184c (c), a “similar health care provider” with respect to the emergency room doctors would be a physician who was not only trained and experienced in emergency medicine, but one who was also “certified by the appropriate American board” in emergency medicine. The complaint alleged that the emergency room doctor failed to take a proper history of the man, properly diagnose, and conduct the proper diagnostic testing on the man, which would fall within the specialty of emergency medicine. The complaint did not allege that the liability of the hospitals arose from anything other than vicarious liability for the negligent conduct of the emergency room doctors as their agents. Because the opinion letter author was not properly qualified to author the opinion letter as against the emergency room doctors, the letter would not support allegations directed at any subordinate providers whose negligence would be imputed to the hospitals.

 

The Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint against the emergency room doctors and hospitals due to the estate’s failure to submit a letter from a doctor board certified in emergency medicine.

 

See: Helfant v. Yale-New Haven Hosp., 2016 WL 4527605 (Conn.App., September 6, 2016) (not designated for publication). 

 

 

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