LORI DIAS et al. v. STEVEN GRADY, M.D., et al., SC 18265

Judicial District of Tolland


      Torts; Malpractice; Whether General Statutes § 52-190a (a) Opinion of Similar Health Care Provider that there Appears to be Evidence of Medical Negligence Must Address Causation.  The plaintiff brought this medical malpractice action, claiming that the defendant surgeon injured her bowel while performing a laparoscopic hysterectomy.  General Statutes § 52-190a (a) requires that, in negligence actions brought against health care providers, a plaintiff must demonstrate grounds for a good faith belief that there was negligence in her care or treatment.  The statute provides that, to show the existence of such good faith, the plaintiff or her attorney "shall obtain a written and signed opinion of a similar health care provider . . . that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence and includes a detailed basis for the formation of such opinion. . . ."  Here, the plaintiff attached to her complaint a written statement from a surgeon opining that the defendant deviated from the accepted standard of care by performing the surgery with an injured hand or with instruments that he was not accustomed to using.  The defendants moved to dismiss the action, claiming that the surgeon's statement did not comply with § 52-190a (a) in that, while the surgeon stated that the defendant deviated from the standard of care, he did not state that such deviation constituted the proximate cause of the plaintiff's claimed injury.  The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, holding that § 52-190a (a)'s requirement that a plaintiff obtain an opinion "that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence" does not require that the similar health care provider render an opinion that addresses causation.  The defendants, upon certification by the Chief Justice pursuant to General Statutes § 52-265a that a matter of substantial public interest is at issue, brought this appeal from the trial court's interlocutory order.  The defendants argue that the plain language of the statute, in requiring a written opinion that there is evidence of "medical negligence," contemplates that the similar health care provider must furnish an opinion both that there was a breach of the standard of care and that the breach was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries.  The defendants contend that their construction of the statute is both in harmony with case law construing "negligence" as encompassing both breach of the standard of care and causation and consistent with the statute's underlying policy of protecting health care providers from unfounded lawsuits.