Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jones v. Liang

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Hartford, Hartford

May 23, 2016

Shannon Jones
v.
Tina Liang, DMD et al Opinion No. 133756

          Judge (with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and Walsh): Dubay, Kevin G., J.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

          Dubay, J.

         This action is brought by the plaintiff against the defendants, Tina Liang, DMD, and Columbia Dental, PC, alleging dental malpractice. The defendants each move to dismiss the plaintiff's amended complaint on the ground that the requisite opinion letter fails to comply with General Statutes § 52-190a(a).

         FACTS

         The plaintiff, Shannon Jones, commenced this action against the defendants, Tina Liang, a general dentist, and Columbia Dental, PC, on September 15, 2015.[1] The plaintiff's amended complaint alleges that the plaintiff's tooth was extracted at Columbia Dental on November 30, 2014, and that Liang was negligent when she failed to properly examine and diagnose the plaintiff's condition causing a left mandibular angle fracture as a result of the procedure. Additionally, Liang failed to inform the plaintiff of the left mandibular angle fracture, and failed to refer her to an appropriate specialist for follow up care. As a result, the plaintiff has required surgery to correct the fracture, and now suffers from trigeminal neuralgia. Along with the complaint, the plaintiff included a certificate of reasonable inquiry and an amended opinion letter authored by a health care provider who offers both general dentistry services as well as maxillofacial prosthetic dental services, and who is familiar with the standard of care pertaining to general dentists.

         The first count of the plaintiff's amended complaint alleges the negligence of Liang. The second count alleges that Columbia Dental is vicariously liable for Liang's negligence, as she was acting as their agent, servant, and/or employee at the time of the plaintiff's injury.

         The defendants have separately moved to dismiss the complaint, and collectively argue that the amended opinion letter fails to comply with § 52-190a(a), because the attesting author is not a similar health care provider as defined by General Statutes § 52-184c(b). The defendants contend that the attesting author is a prosthodontist, which is a dentist who specializes in prosthetic dentistry, whereas the defendant in this action is simply a general dentist; therefore, the attesting author is not " trained and experienced in the same discipline or school of practice." [2] The defendants also argue that the contents of the opinion letter further demonstrate that the attesting author is not a similar health care provider because the author states that they are merely " familiar with the standard of care pertaining to general dentists"; and, furthermore, the author fails to disclose that they have performed tooth extractions within the requisite five-year period. The essence of the defendants' argument is that the treatment provided to the plaintiff was performed by a general dentist on an emergency basis, and that in order for the author to qualify as " trained and experienced in the same discipline or school of practice" as Liang, the author must demonstrate that they are actively involved in the practice or teaching of the same procedure that is at issue in this action. For these reasons, the defendants assert that the action should be dismissed pursuant to § 52-190a(c). The plaintiff counters that the amended opinion letter complies with the statute as it clearly states that the attesting author has engaged in the practice of general dentistry within the last five years; that the author is clearly trained and experienced in general dentistry; and, furthermore, tooth extraction is one of many procedures that general dentists are trained to perform.

         DISCUSSION

         " When a trial court decides a jurisdictional question raised by a pretrial motion to dismiss on the basis of the complaint alone, it must consider the allegations of the complaint in their most favorable light . . . In this regard, a court must take the facts to be those alleged in the complaint, including those facts necessarily implied from the allegations, construing them in a manner most favorable to the pleader." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Conboy v. State, 292 Conn. 642, 651, 974 A.2d 669 (2009).

         Section 52-190a provides in relevant part: " (a) No civil action . . . shall be filed to recover damages . . . in which it is alleged that such injury or death resulted from the negligence of a health care provider, unless the attorney or party filing the action or apportionment complaint has made a reasonable inquiry . . . to determine that there are grounds for a good faith belief that there has been negligence in the care or treatment of the claimant. The complaint . . . shall contain a certificate of the attorney or party filing the action or apportionment complaint that such reasonable inquiry gave rise to a good faith belief that grounds exist for an action against each named defendant . . . To show the existence of such good faith, the claimant or the claimant's attorney . . . shall obtain a written and signed opinion of a similar health care provider, as defined in section 52-184c, which similar health care provider shall be selected pursuant to the provisions of said section, that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence and includes a detailed basis for the formation of such opinion. Such written opinion shall not be subject to discovery by any party except for questioning the validity of the certificate. The claimant or the claimant's attorney . . . shall retain the original written opinion and shall attach a copy of such written opinion, with the name and signature of the similar health care provider expunged, to such certificate . . . (c) The failure to obtain and file the written opinion required by subsection (a) of this section shall be grounds for the dismissal of the action." " [T]he purpose of § 52-190a . . . is to screen out frivolous medical malpractice actions . . ." Bennett v. New Milford Hospital, Inc., 300 Conn. 1, 31, 12 A.3d 865 (2011).

         " [A] motion to dismiss pursuant to § 52-190a(c) is the only proper procedural vehicle for challenging deficiencies with the opinion letter, and . . . dismissal of a letter that does not comply with § 52-190a(c) is mandatory . . ." Id., 29. " The failure to provide a written opinion letter, or the attachment of a written opinion letter that does not comply with § 52-190a, constitutes insufficient process and, thus, service of that insufficient process does not subject the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court . . . The jurisdiction that is found lacking . . . is jurisdiction over the person, not the subject matter." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Morgan v. Hartford Hospital, 301 Conn. 388, 401-02, 21 A.3d 451 (2011).

         The defendants argue that the author of the amended opinion letter is not a similar health care provider as defined by § 52-184c. " Section 52-190a(a) refers to similar health care providers under § 52-184c, which utilizes that term as one of art, both to establish the standard of care that the plaintiff alleges was breached in a malpractice action . . . as well as in part to establish a health care provider's qualifications to testify as an expert witness." (Citation omitted.) Bennett v. New Milford Hospital, Inc., supra, 300 Conn. 13-14. Section 52-184c provides two definitions of similar health care providers pursuant to § 52-190a. For claims against providers who are not certified by an American board, or a specialist, a similar health care provider under § 52-184c(b) is defined as " one who (1) is licensed by the appropriate regulatory agency of this state or another state requiring the same or greater qualifications; and (2) is trained and experienced in the same discipline or school of practice and such training and experience shall be as a result of the active involvement in the practice or teaching of medicine within the five-year period before the incident giving rise to the claim." A separate criteria is established for health care providers who are board certified and hold themselves out as specialists, § 52-184c(c) defines a similar health care provider as " one who (1) is trained and experienced in the same specialty; and (2) is certified by the appropriate American board in the same specialty . . ."

         In her complaint, the plaintiff alleges that her tooth extraction was performed by Liang, a general dentist. The parties do not dispute that the definition of a similar health care provider is governed by § 52-184c(b).

         The author of the opinion letter qualifies as a similar health care provider under the statute. First, the author discloses that he or she is licensed to practice general dentistry in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and that the licensing requirements in Massachusetts are the same or greater than those of Connecticut. Second, the author attests that he or she has practiced general dentistry since 1976, including the last five years, and is familiar with the standard of care pertaining to general dentists. The author further discloses that although they also provide maxillofacial prosthetic dental services, his or her forty-year career includes twenty nine years of didactic and clinical teaching in general dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. The ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.