In a medical malpractice action not unlike some Massachusetts medical malpractice cases, the defendant Emergency Medicine Physicians of New London County, LLC, appealed from the judgment of the trial court after a jury verdict was rendered in favor of the plaintiff. On appeal, the defendant claimed that there was insufficient evidence supporting the jury’s verdict and award of noneconomic damages. Specifically, it claimed that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence for the jury (1) to find that the defendant’s negligence caused the death of the decedent, and (2) to award $150,000 in damages for the destruction of the decedent’s capacity to carry on and enjoy life’s activities. The Connecticut Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court.On November 29, 2008, the decedent was found unresponsive and was brought to a hospital emergency department, where she was treated for a suspected drug overdose by the attending emergency department physician. After the decedent’s vital signs improved and stabilized, she was discharged and returned to the home of a friend, where she was found unresponsive the next morning and was pronounced deceased.
The plaintiff alleged that the hospital was vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of the doctor in treating the decedent for a suspected drug overdose. The plaintiff claimed that the doctor’s discharge of the decedent after only four and one-half hours of observation was premature in that the doctor should have kept the decedent under medical monitoring for 24 hours, which is the period of time during which the fatal side effects of methadone toxicity may occur. If the decedent had remained under medical monitoring for the full 24 hours, the fatal overdose side effects she experienced after her discharge would have been treated, and her eventual death from methadone toxicity would have been averted.
The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, and the trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, from which the doctor appealed. The hospital claimed that there was no direct evidence as to when the decedent consumed the fatal dose of methadone, and the undisputed scientific evidence established that if she had actually overdosed on methadone on November 29, 2008, she would have had a recurrence of overdose symptoms before she was discharged from the hospital’s emergency department.