The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
December 22, 1994 94-R-1059
FROM: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney
Matt Ranelli, Research Attorney
RE: Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform
You asked for an explanation of Connecticut's major tort reform legislation in recent years. You also asked for general information about our medical malpractice law, including what an injured person can recover in damages.
Connecticut enacted major tort reform legislation in 1986 and 1987 (PA 86-338 and PA 87-227). Enclosed are summaries of each of these acts prepared by our office. We have also enclosed an explanation of this legislation contained in the Connecticut Law of Torts, a well- respected resource book dealing with Connecticut tort law.
A medical malpractice lawsuit may be filed to recover damages from a personal injury or wrongful death allegedly caused by a health care provider's negligence. In order to file such a lawsuit, however, the attorney or plaintiff must first make as reasonable an inquiry as circumstances permit to determine whether there are grounds for a good faith belief that the injured party's care or treatment was negligent (CGS § 52-190a). The complaint or initial pleading must contain the attorney's or plaintiff's certificate that the reasonable inquiry produced such a belief that there are grounds for action against each named defendant. One way to show good faith is by a written opinion of a similar health care provider, as defined by statute, that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence.
The court must impose an appropriate sanction on the person who signed the certificate if it determines that the certificate was not made in good faith and that no legal issue was presented against a health care provider that fully cooperated in releasing information to the plaintiff or his attorney. The court may also submit the matter to the appropriate authority to discipline the plaintiff's attorney if he signed such a certificate.
In order to win his lawsuit, the claimant must prove by a preponderance of evidence that the health care provider's alleged actions breached the prevailing standard of care for such a health care provider. This standard of care is that level of care, skill, and treatment that, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.
A person injured because of medical malpractice may recover compensatory damages, including lost earnings, out-of-pocket expenses, and pain and suffering. Where the damages result from a provider's "wilful, wanton, or malicious" conduct the court may also award punitive damages. (See The Connecticut Law of Torts, page 524.) Punitive damages are limited to the actual cost of litigation, including reasonable attorney's fees.
Please let us know if you need additional information.