NANCY HELFANT, EXECUTRIX (ESTATE OF IRWIN HELFANT), ET AL.
YALE-NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL ET AL.
March 1, 2016
from Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Wilson,
T. Bochanis, for the appellants (plaintiffs).
Peter Sachner, with whom, on the brief, was Amy F. Goodusky,
for the appellees (defendant Middlesex Hospital et al.).
Alvord, Prescott and West, Js.
plaintiff, Nancy Helfant, in her capacity as the executrix of
the estate of Irwin Helfant, the decedent, and in her
individual capacity,  brought this medical negligence action
against the defendants, Middlesex Hospital,  Middlesex
Hospital Shoreline Medical Center, Yale-New Haven Hospital,
and the agents, servants, and employees of these
institutions, and against John Lynch and Henry Cabin, both
physicians, individually. The plaintiff appeals from the judgment
of the trial court dismissing the action on the ground that
the plaintiff failed to satisfy General Statutes §
52-190a by filing a written opinion of a similar
health care provider that there appears to be negligence on
the part of the defendants. The plaintiff claims that the
court improperly determined that the opinion letter filed in
the present case failed to demonstrate that the author of the
letter was a similar health care provider as defined by
General Statutes § 52-184c. Because we conclude that the
opinion letter submitted by the plaintiff was not from a
similar health care provider, we affirm the judgment of the
record discloses the following relevant procedural history.
The plaintiff filed a complaint against the defendants on
March 20, 2008, and a revised complaint on November 12, 2008,
in which she, in her capacity as executrix, asserted a
wrongful death claim on the basis of the defendants'
medical malpractice. In her revised complaint, the plaintiff
alleged the following facts, the truth of which we assume for
purposes of her appeal. On December 5, 2005, the
plaintiff's decedent was admitted for treatment by Lynch
at Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center, was
subsequently transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where
Cabin rendered care, and the decedent later died.
plaintiff alleged that the decedent's death was caused by
the negligence, carelessness, and breach of the duty of care
of the institutional defendants through their agents,
servants, and employees. The plaintiff also alleged that the
decedent's death was caused by the negligence,
carelessness, and breach of the duty of care of the defendant
physicians, Lynch and Cabin. Furthermore, the plaintiff
alleged that as a result of the breach of the duty of care by
the defendants, the decedent died on December 5, 2005. The
plaintiff additionally alleged that as a result the decedent
sustained pain and suffering, incurred various medical care,
funeral, and burial expenses, and lost his capacity to earn
wages and carry out life's activities. Additionally, the
plaintiff, in her individual capacity, alleged that as a
result of the defendants' breach of the duty of care owed
the decedent, she suffered a loss of companionship, support,
love and consortium with her husband, the decedent.
to the complaint was a good faith certificate signed by the
plaintiff's attorney. The plaintiff's attorney
represented therein that, following a reasonable inquiry by
him, he believed in good faith that grounds existed for a
medical malpractice action against the defendants.
Additionally, the plaintiff attached a document entitled
‘‘Medical Evaluation Report'' authored by
Robert Pieroni, a physician. The letter stated in relevant
part: ‘‘The communication between Doctors Lynch
and Cabin and agents of their hospitals was frankly abysmal,
and their actions and inactions in their
‘treatment' of [the decedent] were distinctly
substandard.'' The opinion letter set forth the specific
facts related to the decedent's condition at the time he
arrived at Middlesex Hospital Shoreline Medical Center.
Additionally, the letter delineated the ways in which the
defendants failed to provide adequate or appropriate care,
which allegedly led to the decedent's demise. The
letter's stationary indicated that Pieroni was certified
as a specialist by various American boards of medicine,
however, a specialty of emergency medicine was not one of the
the defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff's revised
complaint on the grounds that the opinion letter submitted by
the plaintiff did not comply with § 52-190a, because it
was not authored by a ‘‘similar health care
provider, '' and that it was insufficiently detailed
in that it did not provide for how the defendants deviated
from the standard of care. In support of their motion to
dismiss, the defendants submitted as an exhibit an affidavit
executed by Lynch. In the affidavit Lynch averred that he
‘‘[was] an emergency room physician . . . and
[had] been board certified by the American Board of Emergency
Medicine since June 18, 2004.''
plaintiff filed an objection to the motion and attached as
exhibits an affidavit made by the opinion letter author,
Pieroni, as well as his curriculum vitae. In the affidavit,
Pieroni averred that he ‘‘previously and
currently [performs] physician responsibilities in a hospital
emergency room department and [has] experience in providing
emergency medical care.'' Pieroni further stated that
he ‘‘[had] been previously called upon to assist
emergency room physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of
patients . . . .'' He also declared that
‘‘[a]s a board certified physician in internal
medicine, family medicine, and other specialty areas, [he
had] been trained to perform medical diagnosis and treatment
in different settings including emergency department settings
. . . .''
October 5, 2009, the trial court, Wilson, J.,
entered an order sustaining the plaintiff's objection to
the defendants' motion to dismiss. Subsequently, the
defendants filed a motion to reargue their motion to dismiss,
citing, inter alia, Bennett v. New Milford Hospital,
Inc., 117 Conn.App. 535, 979 A.2d 1066 (2009),
aff'd, 300 Conn. 1, 12 A.3d 865 (2011). The court later
granted the defendants' motion to reargue, vacated its
order of October 5, 2009, and heard reargument on the
defendants' motion to dismiss. In an April 6, 2010
memorandum of decision, the court granted the defendants'
motion to dismiss.
court summarized the key arguments advanced by the parties as
follows: ‘‘[Lynch] argue[d] that the
plaintiff's complaint must be dismissed pursuant to
§ 52-190a (c) because the author of the plaintiff's
opinion letter [was] not a ‘similar health care
provider' as defined by § 52-184c (c). [He] further
[contended] that the letter [was] not sufficiently detailed
to allege medical negligence, in that it neither [stated] a
standard of care nor [illustrated] how [he] breached that
standard. Lastly, [Lynch argued] that the letter [was]
conclusory in its entirety.
plaintiff [countered] that § 52-190a (c) provides for
dismissal only where a plaintiff neglects to attach an
opinion letter to a complaint. In addition, she [argued] that
the opinion author is a similar health care provider because
he has sufficient experience in the field of emergency
medicine, which is unlike other medical specialties in that
it is defined solely by the setting in which the care is
rendered. The plaintiff further [argued] that the sufficiency
of the detail of a medical opinion letter is not properly
raised in a motion to dismiss; and that, if the court [were
to find] that it is, the letter is sufficiently detailed.
plaintiff filed a supplemental objection to the
defendants' motion to dismiss, in which she [countered],
inter alia, that the care rendered by [Lynch] was outside of
his specialty. Therefore, the plaintiff [contended] that the
opinion letter author [Pieroni] is a similar medical provider
under § 52-184c (c), although [Pieroni] is not board
certified in emergency medicine. In reply, the defendants
[asserted] that Bennett [v. New Milford
Hospital, Inc., supra, 117 Conn.App. 535, ] still
controls this issue, focusing on [Lynch's] board
certification relative to that of [Pieroni]. The ...