WILLIAM GAMBARDELLA, ESQ., ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE ESTATE OF HELEN FINGON v. STEPHEN FELDMAN et al., SC 18405
Judicial District of New Haven
Damages; Dead Man's Statute; Whether Jury's Award of Zero Noneconomic Damages was Inconsistent with the Evidence Presented at Trial; Whether Trial Court Should Have Admitted Certain Medical Records Under Dead Man's Statute. In 2004, Helen Fingon sustained various injuries when an automobile in which she was a passenger collided with another vehicle. Fingon later died for reasons that were unrelated to the accident, and, thereafter, the administrator of her estate initiated this action, claiming that the accident was caused by the negligence of the drivers of the two vehicles that were involved in the collision. During the course of the trial, the trial court prohibited the plaintiff from submitting certain medical records and testimony concerning Fingon's injuries and treatment on the ground that he had failed to answer standard interrogatories and had failed to provide an expert disclosure notice. In doing so, the court rejected the plaintiff's claim that such evidence was admissible under the "dead man's statute," General Statutes § 52-172, which provides that in an action initiated by the representative of a deceased person, the relevant declarations of the deceased may be admitted into evidence. Thereafter, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, awarding him economic damages of $1188 but zero noneconomic damages. The plaintiff filed a motion to set aside the verdict, arguing that the jury's award of zero noneconomic damages was inconsistent with the evidence presented at trial. He explained that Fingon's daughter and son-in-law both testified that she had suffered pain and a diminished quality of life due to the accident. He further contended that because the jury awarded him the full cost of Fingon's hospital expenses, which included treatment for her pain, it necessarily must have found that she had suffered pain as a result of the accident. The trial court denied the plaintiff's motion, ruling that because Fingon had died of an unrelated medical condition prior to the initiation of this action, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden of proving the existence of noneconomic damages, notwithstanding that some economic damages were proven. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court's rulings were proper.