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Lund v. Milford Hospital, Inc.

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Ansonia-Milford, Milford

August 17, 2015

Justin Lund
v.
Milford Hospital, Inc

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE DEFENDANT'S OBJECTION TO PLAINTIFF'S SUBSTITUTE COMPLAINT

Barry K. Stevens, J.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Pending before the court is the defendant Milford Hospital's objection to the corrected substitute complaint filed by the plaintiff, Justin Lund. The procedural background of this matter is as follows. The plaintiff instituted this action against the defendant seeking damages for injuries allegedly caused by the defendant's negligence. In brief, the complaint alleges that a patient named Pariseau had been arrested and involuntarily committed to the defendant's care and custody. Because the defendant was negligent in its duty to supervise and control Pariseau, he attempted to leave the hospital. In his capacity as a Connecticut state trooper, the plaintiff chased Pariseau and was injured during his apprehension. In a Memorandum of Decision dated March 13, 2015, the court, relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Kaminski v. Fairfield, 216 Conn. 29, 578 A.2d 1048 (1990), granted the defendant's motion to strike this complaint and overruled the plaintiff's objection to this motion [60 Conn. L. Rptr. 120]. Although discussed briefly below, familiarity with Kaminski v. Fairfield, supra, 216 Conn. 29, and this court's Memorandum of Decision is assumed.

In response to the order striking the complaint, the plaintiff exercised his right as authorized under the rules of practice to file a substitute complaint. Practice Book § 10-44 (" Within fifteen days after the granting of any motion to strike, the party whose pleading has been stricken may file a new pleading . . ."). In its objection to the substitute complaint, the defendant argues that the allegations of the substitute complaint are insufficient to cure the legal deficiencies of the earlier pleading. The defendant requests that its objection be sustained and that judgment enter in its favor based on the plaintiff's failure to file an adequate substitute pleading in response to the order granting the motion to strike. See Practice Book § 10-44. In response, the plaintiff argues that the defendant's objections are procedurally improper because they should have been raised through the filing of another motion to strike. The plaintiff also argues that the defendant's objections lack merit because the substitute complaint asserts new factual allegations sufficient to state a viable cause of action. The court agrees with the defendant.

DISCUSSION

I

Sustaining the defendant's objection to the substitute complaint would mean the absence of any operative complaint given the court's order striking the original complaint. A motion to strike tests the legal sufficiency of a pleading. Practice Book § 10-39; Ferryman v. Groton, 212 Conn. 138, 142, 561 A.2d 432 (1989). " The purpose of a motion to strike is to contest . . . the legal sufficiency of the allegations of any complaint . . . to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In ruling on a motion to strike, the court is limited to the facts alleged in the complaint. The court must construe the facts in the complaint most favorably to the plaintiff." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Novametrix Medical Systems, Inc. v. BOC Group, Inc., 224 Conn. 210, 214-15, 618 A.2d 25 (1992). The trial court deciding a motion to strike must consider as true the well-pleaded facts, but not the legal conclusions, set forth in the complaint. Liljedahl Bros., Inc. v. Grigsby, 215 Conn. 345, 348, 576 A.2d 149 (1990); Blancato v. Feldspar Corp., 203 Conn. 34, 36-37, 522 A.2d 1235 (1987). Practice Book § 10-44 provides in relevant part: " Within fifteen days after the granting of any motion to strike, the party whose pleading has been stricken may file a new pleading . . ." Nonetheless, " [p]ractice Book § 10-44 does not permit [a party] to add new counts in subsequent amended complaints following the court's decision striking the . . . complaint in accordance with our rules of practice." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Perugini v. Giuliano, 148 Conn.App. 861, 878, 89 A.3d 358 (2014). " An example of a proper pleading filed pursuant to Practice Book § 10-44 is one that suppl[ies] the essential allegation lacking in the complaint that was stricken." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id.

II

First, the court rejects the plaintiff's procedural argument that the defendant's objections cannot be entertained because they can only be raised through another motion to strike. The rules of practice do not indicate how a party should contest a new pleading filed in response to an order striking an earlier pleading. The case law indicates that either a request to revise or another motion to strike has often been utilized for this purpose. Id., 877 n.10. Nevertheless, consistent with the general rule that the rules of practice should be applied liberally in order to facilitate business and advance justice; see Practice Book § 1-8; our Appellate Court has held that a defendant may file an objection to contest the legal sufficiency of a new pleading filed in response to a motion to strike. " [C]ourts have considered objections to complaints which were filed after a motion to strike was granted . . . It is fundamental that no one has a right to disobey the orders of any court of this state . . . Consideration of an objection where a party asserts that a pleading has been filed in violation of a court order, even though the Practice Book does not specifically provide for such an objection, is also supported by Practice Book § 1-8 . . . which requires that Practice Book provisions be construed to advance justice . . . The proper administration of justice includes the necessity of enforcement of compliance with court orders . . . We agree that to permit a party to persist in refiling pleadings in a form previously disallowed does not advance the interests of justice. Rather, it encourages needless delay and places an unnecessary and unfair burden on the party who previously has successfully stricken or objected to the improper filing." (Footnotes omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 876-77.

Thus the court concludes that a party may file an objection in order to contest a new pleading filed in response to an order striking an earlier pleading particularly because the rules of practice do not indicate how such an objection should be asserted. The court notes, however, that consistent with the rules of practice, if any such objection is sustained, the pleader should ordinarily receive fifteen days to file another substitute pleading. See P.B. § 10-44.

III

The disposition of the defendant's objection requires a comparison of the original complaint and the substitute complaint. Both the original complaint and substitute complaint state that " [a]t all relevant times, Plaintiff Justin Lund . . . was and is a Connecticut State Trooper, assigned to Troop G in Bridgeport." Corrected Substitute Complaint, ¶ 1. Both pleadings also indicate that the plaintiff was at the scene when Pariseau was arrested. The plaintiff observed Pariseau's violent, irrational, self-destructive and dangerous conduct, and he assisted the arresting officers who were injured trying to subdue Pariseau. Id., ¶ ¶ 7-8.

The plaintiff explains that the substitute complaint provides new information clarifying and emphasizing that his presence at the hospital was not specifically related to Pariseau, but was related to his investigation of another, earlier car accident and to his desire to check on the condition of the injured troopers. Id., ¶ ¶ 10-11. The substitute complaint also adds that the defendant hospital did not " call for or seek or invite" either the plaintiff's assistance or that of any other state trooper. Id., ¶ 14. The substitute complaint also states that when he was at the hospital, the plaintiff believed that the defendant " had assumed the responsibility for the care and supervision of Pariseau." Id., ¶ ¶ 17, 19-20.

The substantive allegations of the substitute complaint describing the circumstances of the plaintiff's injury remain essentially the same as those of the original complaint. As the plaintiff was leaving the hospital, he noticed that Pariseau was not in his room, but was in a bathroom behind the nursing station. " Trooper Lund approached the bathroom door, found it locked, and heard water running from the sink within. He knocked and spoke to Pariseau, asking him to unlock the door. Pariseau replied that he was defecating, and would be out soon enough." Id., ΒΆ 24. " Approximately ten minutes passed, whereupon Pariseau suddenly flung open the bathroom door, and ran out wielding a garbage can filled with a mixture of hot water from the sink and his own urine. He commenced to hurl the can containing the fluids at Trooper Lund, another trooper, and two nurses, and then ran out of the room and down the hall in a bid for escape. Trooper Lund pursued Pariseau, but was impaired because he slipped and fell in the mixture of urine and water on the floor. He caught up with Pariseau in the corridor, tackled him, and a struggle ensued in which Trooper Lund sustained injuries to his head, right shoulder, right wrist, right elbow and right hand. The ...


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