MEDICAL PERSONNEL; MALPRACTICE;
Court Cases; Connecticut laws/regulations;
July 3, 2003
STANDARD OF CARE IN MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASES
By: Christopher Reinhart, Associate Attorney
You asked about the standard of care requirement in medical malpractice cases in Connecticut and whether the standard refers to Connecticut, the nation, or the world.
Connecticut law (CGS § 52-184c) requires the plaintiff in a claim based on a health care provider’s negligence to prove that the health care provider’s actions breached the prevailing professional standard of care for that health care provider. The standard of care is the level of care, skill, and treatment that, under the relevant circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.
If the defendant is a specialist certified by the appropriate American specialty board, is trained and experienced in a medical specialty, or holds himself out as a specialist, a similar health care provider is someone:
1. trained and experienced in the same specialty and
2. certified by the appropriate American board in the same specialty (if the defendant’s treatment or diagnosis is outside his specialty, a specialist trained in treating or diagnosing that condition is considered a similar health care provider).
For other defendants (e. g. , non-specialists), a similar health care provider is someone:
1. licensed by the appropriate regulatory agency of Connecticut or another state requiring the same or greater qualifications,
2. trained and experienced in the same discipline or school of practice, and
3. with five year of active practice or medical teaching prior to the incident that gave rise to the claim.
The law also allows a health care provider to testify as an expert if the court is satisfied that he has sufficient training, experience, and knowledge because of his practice or teaching in a related field of medicine (for at least five years before the incident that is the basis of the claim) to allow him to give expert testimony on the prevailing standard of care (CGS § 52-184c).
The statute does not specify any geographic region for determining the standard of care. Before adoption of the statute in 1986, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in Logan v. Greenwich Hospital Association that the relevant geographic area for determining the standard of care is the entire nation, rather than the state as it had previously ruled. In that case, the court stated that the education and training of physicians in Connecticut was similar to physicians in other states and medical literature disseminates throughout the country. The court found little reason under contemporary conditions to retain the “vestige of former times when there was a substantial basis for believing that the rural doctor should not be held to the standards of the urban doctor, since the latter had greater access to new theories and had more opportunity to refine his methods of practice” (191 Conn. 282 (1983)).
A recent Supreme Court opinion appears to reaffirm this ruling. In a case dealing with another aspect of this statute, the court stated in a footnote that the statute’s language relating to non-specialists reflects the national standard of care in Logan. The court also quoted a treatise and stated that specialization lends itself to a national standard of care because the medial community has mostly standardized the training and skill requirements and requires board certification before calling oneself a specialist. The court also cited the statute’s legislative history and stated that the legislation codified the standard of care as developed by the courts and added that the legislature did not intend to impose drastic changes on the existing standard of care. The court also quoted the Law Revision Commission’s post-enactment report stating that the statute codifies the standard of care of prior law (Grondin v. Curi, 262 Conn. 637 (2003)).