Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying the City of Bridgeport's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's complaint that the City was negligent by failing to follow a local emergency service plan and permitting a highway defect to exist, namely, snow, holding that the City was immune for its actions pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 28-13. The trial court rejected the City's argument that this action was barred by common-law governmental immunity and that the City could not invoke the protections of section 28-13 immunity because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the City was actively experiencing a civil preparedness emergency at the time of the death in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an appealable final judgment existed; and (2) there was no genuine issue of material fact with respect to the applicability of section 28-13, and therefore, the trial court should have granted summary judgment. View "Sena v. American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court's decision determining that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Plaintiff's motion to set aside the jury verdict for Defendants and for a new trial, holding that the jury's responses to certain interrogatories were legally inconsistent. Plaintiff brought this action against Johnley Sainval, a taxicab driver, and Sainval's employer seeking damages for serious injuries she sustained when she was struck by a taxicab that had been stolen from Sainval after Sainval left the vehicle unattended with the key in the ignition. The jury found that Sainval was negligent and that Sainval's negligence was a proximate cause of Plaintiff's injuries but that Defendants were not liable for Plaintiff's injuries because the accident was not within the scope of the risk created by Sainval's negligence. Plaintiff filed a motion to set aside the verdict and for a new trial, but the trial court denied the motion. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the superseding cause doctrine was inapplicable to the present case; but (2) Plaintiff was entitled to a new trial because the interrogatory responses on which the jury verdict was based were inconsistent as a matter of law. View "Snell v. Norwalk Yellow Cab, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case alleging negligence against a physician, the Supreme Court recognized a third-party cause of action for negligent misreporting of sexually transmitted disease (STD) test results, holding that a physician who mistakenly informs a patient that he does not have an STD may be held liable in ordinary negligence to the patient's exclusive sexual partner for her resulting injuries when the physician knows that the patient sought testing and treatment for the express benefit of that partner. Plaintiff sued Defendant, a physician, alleging that Defendant had been negligent by misreporting the STD test results of her sexual partner. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to strike, concluding that Defendant did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant owed a duty of care to Plaintiff, even though she was not his patient. View "Doe v. Cochran" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant on the grounds that the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970, 49 U.S.C. 20101 et seq., preempted Plaintiff's negligence claims, holding that Defendant failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that Plaintiff's claim was preempted under the railroad act. Plaintiff, individually and as executrix of the estate of her late husband (decedent), filed this action against Defendant, Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company, claiming that the decedent's injuries and death were proximately caused by the negligence of Defendant when it violated practices and customs with respect to track selection. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the subject matter of Plaintiff's claim was covered by federal regulations addressing speed and track classification. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that, to the extent that Plaintiff's claim was viewed as relating to rail safety, it was barred by the railroad act. The Supreme Court reversed after noting the narrow preemption provision in the railroad act, the acknowledgement that the federal regulations provide the minimum safety standards, and the lack of a regulatory provision expressly addressing track selection, Plaintiff's claim was not preempted under the railroad act. View "Murphy v. Darien" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Court upholding the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the municipal defendants in this personal injury action, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact that an agency relationship did not exist between the municipal defendants and the tortfeasor at the time of the motor vehicle accident with Plaintiff. The vehicle being driven by James Smith, a volunteer firefighter with the Old Saybrook Fire Company No. 1, Inc., collided with a motorcycle being driven by Plaintiff. In this action, Plaintiff alleged that the fire company and the town were vicariously liable for Smith's negligence. The municipal defendants moved for summary judgment claiming that Smith was not acting within the scope of his employment with the fire company at the time of the accident because he had left the firehouse and was on his way home. The trial court granted the motion. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no genuine issue of material fact that Smith was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and therefore, the municipal defendants could not be held vicariously liable for Smith's negligence as a matter of law. View "Fiano v. Old Saybrook Fire Co. No. 1, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court against Defendants in this public nuisance suit, holding that Defendants' contractual undertaking with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) did not create a duty to Plaintiffs. Project Service, LLC, the named defendant, and the DOT, which owned a service plaza, had entered into a concession agreement which imposed the responsibility on Project Service to operate and maintain the service plaza. Project Service contracted the day-to-day operation of the service plaza to one defendant, which subcontracted certain operations to another defendant. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants created a public nuisance by permitting the tortfeasor to consume alcohol and loiter on the service plaza premises before driving his Jeep onto a roadway where he killed and injured the victims. Plaintiffs also alleged that Defendants breached a duty to passing motorists to protect them from the increased risk of harm created by Defendants' failure to perform their contractual obligations. The trial court rendered summary judgment on the nuisance claims, and the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiffs' favor on Plaintiffs' negligence claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Defendants' agreement did not create a duty to Plaintiffs; and (2) Plaintiffs' public nuisance claims failed as a matter of law. View "Demond v. Project Service, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion for remittitur after a jury awarded $1.2 million in noneconomic damages to Plaintiff, as the administratrix of the decedent's estate, and $4.5 million to Plaintiff for her loss of spousal consortium, holding that a loss of consortium award ordinarily should not substantially exceed the corresponding wrongful death award to the directly injured spouse. After the jury returned its verdict, Defendant filed a motion seeking a remittitur of the loss of consortium award. The trial court denied the motion and rendered judgment in accordance with the jury verdict. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) absent exceptional or unusual circumstances, a presumption applies that a direct injury to one spouse is no less harmful than the concomitant loss of consortium suffered by the deprived spouse; and (2) the disproportionate loss of consortium award in this case was not justified. View "Ashmore v. Hartford Hospital" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by the administrators of the estates of nine people killed in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Supreme Court held that the trial court properly determined that, although the trial court properly struck most of Plaintiffs’ claims against various manufacturers, distributors and sellers of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), 15 U.S.C. 7901 through 7903, did not bar Plaintiffs’ claims that Defendants violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUPTA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq., by marketing the firearm to civilians for criminal purposes and that those wrongful marketing tactics contributed to the massacre. Adam Lanza carried out the massacre using a XM15-E2S. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment that most of Plaintiffs’ claims were precluded by established Connecticut law and/or PLCAA. However, as to Plaintiffs’ claims that Defendants knowingly marketed, advertised, and promoted the XM15-E2S for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military style combat missions, the Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs pleaded allegations sufficient to survive a motion to strike because (1) PLCAA does not bar Plaintiffs’ wrongful marketing claims; and (2) to the extent that it prohibits the unethical advertising of dangerous products for illegal purposes, CUTPA qualifies as a predicate statute. View "Soto v. Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the trial court’s judgment in favor of Plaintiff in this personal injury case, holding that that Appellate Court correctly determined that governmental immunity barred Plaintiff’s action. Plaintiff brought this action against the Town of East Haven seeking damages for injuries he received when he was struck by an unregistered vehicle driven by a third party. Plaintiff alleged that the accident would not have occurred had an East Haven police officer, who responded to an incident involving the third party shortly before Plaintiff was struck, properly directed that the third party’s vehicle be towed in accordance with police department tow rules. The jury rejected the Town’s claim of governmental immunity, concluding that the officer had a ministerial duty under the tow rules to have the third party’s vehicle towed. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the Town was immune from suit because its tow rules did not impose on the officer a clear ministerial duty to tow the third party’s vehicle. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the officer had no clear ministerial duty to tow the third party’s vehicle. View "Ventura v. Town of East Haven" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Commissioner of Transportation on the ground that Plaintiff’s personal injury action was barred by sovereign immunity, holding that the waiver of sovereign immunity under Conn. Gen. Stat. 13a-444, the state’s highway defect statute, extended to Plaintiff’s claim that the state police failed to close a bridge before a crew from the Department of Transportation could arrive to address an icy surface on that bridge. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the waiver of sovereign immunity under section 13a-144 extends to the actions of state employees other than those employed by the commissioner, but only to the extent those employees are performing duties related to highway maintenance and the plaintiff proves that a relationship exists between the commissioner and the state employee such that the commissioner can be found to have breached his statutory duty to keep highways, bridges, or sidewalks in repair; and (2) in this case, there was no evidence indicating that the requisite relationship existed between the commissioner and the state police, and therefore, the commissioner could not be held liable for the failure of the state police to close the bridge. View "Graham v. Commissioner of Transportation" on Justia Law