CATHERINE O. DUNCAN v. MILL MANAGEMENT COMPANY OF GREENWICH, INC., et al., SC 18722
Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk
Negligence; Evidence; Whether Trial Court’s Admission of Evidence of Subsequent Remedial Measures Required Reversal of Judgment and Remand for New Trial. The plaintiff fell and broke her ankle while attempting to descend the stairs from a rooftop deck common area of the condominium building where she resided. The plaintiff filed this negligence action, alleging that the stairs to the rooftop deck did not comply with the town building code and constituted an unsafe condition. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. On appeal, the defendants argued to the Appellate Court that the trial court improperly admitted evidence of a subsequent remedial measure in that it permitted the plaintiff to introduce evidence that they built a new staircase after the plaintiff was injured. Pursuant to § 4-7 (a) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, subsequent remedial measures are "inadmissible to prove negligence or culpable conduct in connection with the event” but may be offered “to prove controverted issues such as ownership, control or feasibility of precautionary measures." The plaintiff claimed that the evidence of the construction of a new staircase was necessary to counter testimony by the building manager that he could not have had the construction done without the approval of the condominium association's board of directors. The Appellate Court held that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence of the new staircase and that its admission was harmful. The Appellate Court found that the evidence was admitted to prove that the defendants could have had a new staircase built, which went directly to the issue of culpability rather than to the feasibility of construction, and also to prove that the defendants were negligent because they did not do all that they could have done to make the stairway safe. The Appellate Court further found that the admission of the evidence likely affected the outcome of the case because whether the stairs were properly constructed was a central issue and evidence that a new staircase—built in compliance with the town's building code—was constructed was probative of whether the original stairs complied with the code. In light of these determinations, the Appellate Court ordered a new trial. In this certified appeal, the Supreme Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the trial court's admission into evidence of subsequent remedial measures required reversal of the judgment and remand for a new trial.