A medical malpractice lawsuit is a complicated undertaking in Connecticut (as it is in all states), especially when compared with other types of civil cases. This is due to the thorny medical and legal issues common to these kinds of cases, and to the introduction of extensive treatment records and detailed testimony of numerous medical experts.
But it's also because in most states -- Connecticut included -- the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) must comply with certain procedural rules right at the outset (in addition to filing the complaint, which sets out the allegations against the defendant health care provider). These safeguards have been put in place as part of tort reform efforts, which seek to discourage the filing of frivolous injury-related lawsuits. In this article, we'll summarize some of the most important of these rules in Connecticut, including the "reasonable inquiry" requirement.
The "Reasonable Inquiry" Requirement for Connecticut Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
This requirement is spelled out at Connecticut General Statutes section 52-190a, which says that in any medical malpractice action against a health care provider, alleging injury or death, the plaintiff (or the plaintiff's attorney) must file with the court a certificate stating that a "reasonable inquiry" has been made "to determine that there are grounds for a good faith belief that there has been negligence" in connection with the defendant health care provider's treatment of the plaintiff, and that the inquiry "gave rise to a good faith belief that grounds exist for an action against each named defendant."
As part of this "reasonable inquiry" process, section 52-190a also requires the plaintiff to "obtain a written and signed opinion" from a qualified medical expert who:
- offers an opinion that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence, and
- provides a detailed basis for the formation of that opinion.
This "reasonable inquiry" certificate must be filed alongside the initial complaint, although an automatic 90-day extension is possible for the filing of both the complaint and the certificate.
Failure to file the required certificate could result in the dismissal of your medical malpractice lawsuit, and if the court finds that the certificate was not made in good faith, and that "no justiciable issue was presented against a health care provider," the person who prepared the certificate (and the plaintiff and his/her attorney) could face sanctions from the court.
(Learn more: Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?)
Who is a "Similar Health Care Provider" Under Connecticut Medical Malpractice Law?
Connecticut law requires a medical malpractice plaintiff to prove "that the alleged actions of the health care provider represented a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care for that health care provider," according to Connecticut General Statutes section 52-184c. This statute goes on to say that the "prevailing professional standard of care" is one that is "recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers."
A "similar health care provider" need not necessarily be certified in the same specialty as the defendant health care provider, as long as he or she is qualified "to the satisfaction of the court," according to section 52-184c. But generally, if the defendant is a certified expert in a particular field, it's beneficial for the testifying expert to be similarly-skilled. For example, an experienced vascular surgeon would almost surely be considered a "similar care provider" in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed over an error that allegedly occurred during the plaintiff's heart surgery.
More Information on Connecticut Medical Malpractice Cases
A Connecticut medical malpractice plaintiff also needs to be aware of -- and be in compliance with -- the lawsuit filing deadline set by the Connecticut Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits.
For more details on filing requirements and anything else related to a Connecticut medical malpractice case -- and of course, for legal advice that's tailored to your specific situation -- it may be time to talk with an experienced Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer.