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Peek v. Manchester Memorial Hospital

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

October 1, 2019

DELORES PEEK
v.
MANCHESTER MEMORIAL HOSPITAL ET AL.

          Argued March 5, 2019

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for, inter alia, the defendants’ alleged negligence, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Cobb, J., granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiff appealed. Reversed; further proceedings.

          Neil Johnson, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Gretchen G. Randall, with whom, on the brief, was Emily McDonough Souza, for the appellees (defendants).

          Alvord, Moll and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          ALVORD, J.

         The plaintiff, Delores Peek, appeals from the summary judgment rendered in favor of the defendants, Manchester Memorial Hospital and Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly determined that her action was barred by the statute of limitations in General Statutes § 52-584.[1] Because we conclude that the evidence before the trial court demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact as to when the plaintiff discovered her injury as contemplated by § 52-584, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

         The record, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff as the nonmoving party, reveals the following relevant facts and procedural history. On January 30, 2015, the plaintiff was admitted to Manchester Memorial Hospital with a medical diagnosis of C-Diff diarrhea. On or about that date, she was assessed at the hospital and found to be at risk for falling. She was placed on ‘‘fall prevention protocol’’ and required assistance to leave her hospital bed. On February 10, 2015, the plaintiff fell while using the restroom and sustained injuries to her shoulder and neck, for which she received medication and treatment. She ‘‘was unaware, ’’ on the date of her fall, ‘‘what was the cause of [her] fall.’’ The plaintiff left the hospital on February 12, 2015, and received follow up care through December 10, 2015, on which date she underwent neck surgery.[2] On or about April 6, 2015, staff at the office of the plaintiff’s doctor informed the plaintiff that ‘‘a nurse or nurse’s aide should have been responsible for [her] safety while inpatient at [the defendants’ hospital].’’

         On November 22, 2016, the plaintiff received an automatic ninety day extension of the statute of limitations pursuant to General Statutes § 52-190a (b).[3] The plaintiff delivered the action to the state marshal for service of process on May 22, 2017. In her one count complaint, the plaintiff alleges that her fall resulted from the defendants’ negligence in ‘‘fail[ing] to exercise the degree of care, skill, and diligence ordinarily exercised by hospitals engaged in the treat[ment] of patients . . . on . . . fall prevention protocol . . . .’’ On July 26, 2017, the defendants filed an answer and a special defense alleging that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations in § 52-584. On July 31, 2017, the plaintiff filed her reply to the special defense, stating therein: ‘‘The plaintiff . . . denies any and all allegations of the defendants’ special defense in its entirety, the plaintiff was inpatient for the stay subject of the plaintiff’s complaint until February 28, 2015.’’[4]

         On September 13, 2017, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, maintaining that the plaintiff’s action was barred by the statute of limitations in § 52-584. The documents submitted with the defendants’ motion and memorandum of law in support of their motion were the plaintiff’s certificate of good faith pursuant to § 52-190a and attached written opinion letter, the plaintiff’s request for an extension of the statute of limitations, the state marshal’s return of service, the defendants’ answer and special defense, and the plaintiff’s reply thereto.

         On December 29, 2017, the plaintiff objected to the motion for summary judgment, arguing that her action was timely because the statute of limitations was tolled under the continuous course of treatment doctrine. She also maintained that the statute of limitations did not begin running until April 6, 2015, on which date she claimed that she ‘‘learned that she was on fall risk protocol and that while on fall risk protocol that the hospital was required to provide her assistance whenever she left her bed.’’ She argued that she ‘‘was not aware that the defendants’ conduct or lack thereof was the cause of her injury until she was informed by the defendant provider on or about April 6, 2015.’’ The plaintiff attached to her opposition memorandum her affidavit averring that she ‘‘was unaware, ’’ on the date of her fall, ‘‘what was the cause of [her] fall.’’ She further averred that staff at her doctor’s office informed her on April 6, 2015, that ‘‘a nurse or nurse’s aide should have been responsible for [her] safety while inpatient at [the defendants’ hospital].’’ The defendants did not file a reply memorandum.

         On January 2, 2018, the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, stating that ‘‘the plaintiff did not place the action in the hands of the marshal until May 22, 2017. Because the plaintiff suffered actionable harm-the fall and injuries-on February 10, 2015, she should have brought the action on or before February 10, 2017. Having received a ninety day extension . . . the suit should have been initiated on or before May 10, 2017. Having failed to initiate this action within the applicable statute of limitations, the action is time barred.’’ This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court improperly determined that her action was barred by the statute of limitations in § 52-584. She argues that the statute of limitations was tolled by the continuous course of treatment doctrine[5] and, thus, the statute did not begin running until December 10, 2015, on which date she underwent neck surgery. In the alternative, she argues that actionable harm did not occur until April 6, 2015, on which date she claims that she learned that the defendants’ negligence had caused her injury. We disagree that the statute of limitations was tolled by the continuing course of treatment doctrine. As to ...


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