Sep 19 2019

Connecticut Insurance Law - 9/19/2019

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Negligence/Medical Malpractice - Loss of Consortium
Authored by:   Eric B. Caines

Ashmore v. Hartford Hospital 331 Conn. 777 (2019).  The Connecticut Supreme Court remanded a denial of remittitur on a loss of consortium claim brought by a plaintiff widow that substantially exceeded the value of the wrongful death plaintiff’s estate.  The decedent suffered a catastrophic cardiac arrest with a substantial period of oxygen deprivation following elective surgery, resulting in a prolonged period on life support before it was terminated.  The decedent’s wife brought a claim for wrongful death on behalf of the estate and a loss of consortium claim in her own name.  The jury returned a verdict awarding $1.2 million for wrongful death, and $4.5 million for the wife’s loss of consortium.  The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that, presumptively, a loss of consortium verdict should not substantially outweigh the amount of the non-economic damages for the wrongful death itself.  A substantial difference between the awards must be supported by evidence that explains or justifies the unusual disparity, which the Court ruled did not arise from the facts of this case.  The Court concluded that the loss of consortium could not be substantially more damaging than the loss of life itself.

Negligence – Incorrect Reporting of Medical Test Results
Authored by: Michael P. DiPietro

Doe v. Cochran, 332 Conn. 325 (2019).  The Connecticut Supreme Court recognized a third-party cause of action for the negligent misreporting of sexually transmitted disease (STD) test results.  The plaintiff and her boyfriend were engaged in an exclusive romantic relationship. Prior to their relationship becoming sexual, they agreed to seek individual testing for STDs. The boyfriend explained to his physician that he wanted to be tested for the protection and benefit of his new, exclusive girlfriend. The physician drew the boyfriend’s blood, conducted the tests, and reviewed the results.  The plaintiff later contracted herpes from her boyfriend after the physician incorrectly reported to the boyfriend that he tested negative for the disease. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that a physician who mistakenly informed his patient that the patient does not have a STD may be held liable in ordinary negligence to the patient’s exclusive sexual partner for resulting injuries when the physician knows that the patient sought testing and treatment for the express benefit of that exclusive sexual partner. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the trial court’s improperly granted motion to strike the plaintiff’s complaint.

Negligence – Doctrine of Superseding Cause
 Authored by: Tiffany L. Sabato

Snell v. Norwalk Yellow Cab, Inc., 332 Conn. 720 (2019).  The plaintiff, a pedestrian, sued a taxicab driver, his employer, and the owner of the taxicab for injuries she sustained after thieves stole the taxicab and struck her.  The issues before the Connecticut Supreme Court were (1) whether the doctrine of superseding cause applies to criminally reckless conduct, as was the conduct of the thieves; and (2) whether the jury’s responses to interrogatories at the time the verdict was rendered in the underlying trial were legally inconsistent, in that the jury found both that the driver’s negligence was the proximate cause of the pedestrian’s injuries, and also that the actions of the thieves were superseding causes of the pedestrian’s injuries.  The Court held that the doctrine of superseding cause does apply to criminally reckless conduct.  The Court then concluded that the jury’s responses to their interrogatories were legally inconsistent, because a finding of superseding cause precludes a finding that the underlying actor’s conduct was a proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injuries.

Professional Liability – Insurance Agent’s Duties to Third Parties
Authored by: Michael S. Tripicco

Estavien v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company, Superior Court of Connecticut, 2019 WL 2005995.  After being seriously injured by an underinsured motorist, the plaintiff sued her grandfather’s insurance agent for negligently failing to procure underinsurance coverage with sufficient limits.  Although the plaintiff was not a direct client of the agent, her relationship with her grandfather qualified her for underinsurance coverage under the applicable policy.  The agent moved for summary judgment and argued that it owed no duty to third parties such as the plaintiff.  Given the lack of legal authority on point, the court considered whether such a duty should be imposed.  Concluding in the affirmative, the court reasoned that the plaintiff’s status as an insured meant that her specific harms were foreseeable to the agent.  The court also conducted a detailed public policy analysis, considering decisions from other jurisdictions as well as Connecticut law which already required agents to explain the consequences of having insufficient uninsured/underinsured coverage to their own direct clients.  The court determined that public policy supported the imposition of a duty in favor of third party insureds, although it specifically declined to consider the issue beyond the uninsured/underinsured motorist context. 

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