Carrano v. Yale-New Haven Hosp., No. 17286.

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtVertefeuille
Citation904 A.2d 149,279 Conn. 622
PartiesMary CARRANO, Administratrix (Estate of Phillip J. Carrano, Jr.), et al. v. YALE-NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL et al.
Decision Date22 August 2006
Docket NumberNo. 17286.
904 A.2d 149
279 Conn. 622
Mary CARRANO, Administratrix (Estate of Phillip J. Carrano, Jr.), et al.
v.
YALE-NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL et al.
No. 17286.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued November 30, 2005.
Decided August 22, 2006.

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Thomas J. Weihing, with whom were Brian Mangines and on the brief, John T. Bochanis and Thomas E. Mangines, Bridgeport, for the appellants (named plaintiff et al.).

Jeffrey R. Babbin, with whom, on the brief, was Kenneth D. Heath, New Haven, for the appellees (named defendant et al.).

William M. Bloss, Bridgeport, filed a brief for the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.

BORDEN, KATZ, VERTEFEUILLE, ZARELLA and KARAZIN, Js.

VERTEFEUILLE, J.


This certified appeal1 arises out of a medical malpractice action brought by the named plaintiff, Mary Carrano (plaintiff), individually and as administratrix of the estate of her husband, Phillip J. Carrano, Jr. (decedent),2 against the defendants Yale-New Haven Hospital, Garth Ballantyne, a gastrointestinal surgeon, and Mary Harris, a registered nurse, for the wrongful death of the decedent.3 The plaintiff claims that the Appellate Court improperly reversed the judgment of the trial court, which had rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff in accordance with

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a jury verdict. Carrano v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, 84 Conn.App. 656, 854 A.2d 771 (2004). Specifically, the plaintiff claims that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that: (1) the defendants were entitled to a new trial because the trial court improperly had awarded the plaintiff peremptory challenges not required by law; id., at 659-63, 854 A.2d 771; and (2) the plaintiff had presented insufficient evidence of economic damages. Id., at 658 n. 3, 854 A.2d 771. The defendants, in addition to raising various alternate grounds for affirmance of the Appellate Court's judgment,4 request modification of the relief ordered by the Appellate Court pursuant to Practice Book § 84-11(b).5 Specifically, the defendants claim that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, rather than a new trial, because the evidence of causation was insufficient. We conclude that: (1) the trial court's award of peremptory challenges not required by law was harmless; (2) the evidence of the decedent's net earnings from disability income was insufficient to support an award of economic damages; and (3) the evidence of causation was sufficient to support the verdict. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The jury reasonably could have found the following facts. On February 24, 1992, the decedent was admitted to Bridgeport Hospital for the treatment of an infected finger. While at Bridgeport Hospital, the decedent began to experience painful complications from a preexisting condition of Crohn's disease, which is an inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract. On March 11, the decedent was transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital (hospital). Thereafter, on March 20, Ballantyne, the decedent's attending physician, performed a colonoscopy on the decedent to determine whether and to what extent surgery would be an appropriate next step in treating his Crohn's disease. On or around that time, the decedent developed peripheral edema, or swelling of his arms and legs caused by excess fluid. On March 21, despite the peripheral edema, the decedent was discharged from the hospital. He died at home early the next

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morning from pulmonary edema, or excess fluid in his lungs.

Thereafter, the plaintiff filed the present medical malpractice action against the defendants. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of $3,386,177.85.6 The trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict, and the defendants appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the case to that court for a new trial. Carrano v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, supra, 84 Conn.App. at 667, 854 A.2d 771. Specifically, the Appellate Court concluded that the trial court had abused its discretion in awarding the plaintiff peremptory challenges not required by law, and that a "new trial [was] the only appropriate remedy...." Id., at 662, 854 A.2d 771. Because the issue was likely to recur at retrial, the Appellate Court also addressed the defendants' claim that the plaintiff had presented insufficient evidence of economic damages. Id., at 658 n. 3, 854 A.2d 771. The Appellate Court concluded that this claim "merit[ed] little discussion" because "[t]he plaintiff's evidence of economic damages was inadequate as a matter of law." Id. The Appellate Court declined to address the defendants' claim that the plaintiff had presented insufficient evidence of causation because it already had determined that a new trial was required. Id. This certified appeal followed.

I

The plaintiff first claims that the Appellate Court improperly concluded that the trial court had abused its discretion in awarding the plaintiff peremptory challenges not required by law. Specifically, the plaintiff claims that, pursuant to General Statutes (Rev. to 2001) § 51-243(a)7 and Kalams v. Giacchetto, 268 Conn. 244, 842 A.2d 1100 (2004), the trial court properly exercised its discretion when it awarded twelve additional challenges to the plaintiff to equalize the number of challenges collectively awarded to the defendants. Alternatively, the plaintiff claims that if we conclude that the trial court had abused its discretion, the improper award was harmless. The defendants respond that, pursuant to § 51-243(a) and Kalams, the trial court has discretion to award additional peremptory challenges to both sides of the litigation only if extraordinary circumstances arise during jury selection. Because the trial court had awarded additional

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challenges solely to the plaintiff prior to the commencement of jury selection, the defendants maintain that the award was improper. The defendants further claim that the improper award cannot be deemed harmless because it fundamentally altered the composition of the jury. We need not address the propriety of the trial court's award because we conclude that the award was harmless.

The following additional facts are relevant to our resolution of the plaintiff's claim. On April 26, 1994, the plaintiff filed the present medical malpractice action against the three defendants and two other physicians, Andrew Elliot and Elton Cahow.8 Prior to jury selection, the defendants moved for four peremptory challenges to be awarded to each defendant. Specifically, the defendants claimed that they lacked a "unity of interest" and, therefore, were each entitled to a minimum of four peremptory challenges pursuant to § 51-243(a).9 The trial court agreed with the defendants and awarded the requested challenges, resulting in an aggregate number of twenty peremptory challenges for the defense. The trial court also, sua sponte and over the objection of the defendants, increased the number of peremptory challenges awarded to the plaintiff from eight to twenty10 to equalize the number of challenges allocated to both sides of the litigation. The court reasoned that a discretionary award of additional challenges to the plaintiff was necessary to avoid "a gross miscarriage of justice...."11

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During jury selection, the plaintiff exercised fifteen peremptory challenges, and the defendants exercised seventeen.

At the close of evidence, the trial court directed a verdict in favor of Elliot and Cahow, and submitted the plaintiff's claim against the three remaining defendants to the jury. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff, and the trial court rendered judgment in accordance with the verdict. Thereafter, the defendants appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court, claiming in relevant part that the trial court had violated § 51-243(a) and abused its discretion when it awarded the plaintiff peremptory challenges not required by law. Carrano v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, supra, 84 Conn.App. at 659-63, 854 A.2d 771. The Appellate Court agreed with the defendants and reversed the judgment of the trial court. Id., at 663, 854 A.2d 771. The Appellate Court acknowledged that in Kalams v. Giacchetto, supra, 268 Conn. at 263-64, 842 A.2d 1100, this court had concluded that a trial court has discretion to award peremptory challenges not required by law, and that, in determining whether a trial court has abused that discretion a reviewing court must consider whether the "granting of the challenges harmed either party or was inconsistent with an efficient and orderly judicial process." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Carrano v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, supra, at 66, 854 A.2d 771. The Appellate Court concluded, however, that "a careful reading of Kalams reveals a narrow discretion" only to "grant each side in litigation additional challenges";12 (emphasis in original) id.; and, therefore, the trial court in the present case "was constrained by the number of peremptory challenges allowed by [General Statutes (Rev. to 2001)] §§ 51-241 and 51-243(a)." Id. The Appellate Court further concluded that the improper award had harmed the defendants because "the plaintiff's receipt of twelve more challenges than that to which she was entitled (of which she used seven) fundamentally altered the composition of the jury that decided the case in her favor." Id., at 662, 854 A.2d 771. Moreover, a new trial was deemed to be the only appropriate remedy "because the use of the challenges at the original trial can never be reconstructed. If each [side had the appropriate number of] challenges, a wholly different panel

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might have been selected." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id.

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70 practice notes
  • State v. Gould, No. 19471.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 16 Agosto 2016
    ...decided the case....” 322 Conn. 531 State v. Ross, supra, 269 Conn. at 232, 849 A.2d 648 ; accord Carrano v. Yale–New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 639 n. 20, 904 A.2d 149 (2006) ; but see State v. Hill, 196 Conn. 667, 672–73, 495 A.2d 699 (1985) (trial court's improper refusal to permit d......
  • O'Connor v. Larocque, No. 18648.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 1 Noviembre 2011
    ...have reached its conclusion, the verdict must stand, even if this court disagrees with it.” Carrano v. Yale–New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 645–46, 904 A.2d 149 (2006); see also Considine v. Waterbury, 279 Conn. 830, 858, 905 A.2d 70 (2006) (noting “ ‘rigorous' ” standard that must be me......
  • In re Elvin G., No. 19108.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 12 Noviembre 2013
    ...(failure of court to follow rules pertaining to decision on summary judgment motions). 4. See, e.g., Carrano v. Yale–New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 635–37, 904 A.2d 149 (2006) (rejecting argument that one-sided award of additional peremptory challenges was structural error that should h......
  • State v. Camacho, No. 16791.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 8 Mayo 2007
    ...first whether the trial court properly applied the two recognized hearsay exceptions. See, e.g., Carrano v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 635 n. 15, 904 A.2d 149 (2006) (noting that this "court has a basic judicial duty to avoid deciding a constitutional issue if a nonconstitution......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
70 cases
  • State v. Gould, No. 19471.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 16 Agosto 2016
    ...decided the case....” 322 Conn. 531 State v. Ross, supra, 269 Conn. at 232, 849 A.2d 648 ; accord Carrano v. Yale–New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 639 n. 20, 904 A.2d 149 (2006) ; but see State v. Hill, 196 Conn. 667, 672–73, 495 A.2d 699 (1985) (trial court's improper refusal to permit d......
  • O'Connor v. Larocque, No. 18648.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 1 Noviembre 2011
    ...have reached its conclusion, the verdict must stand, even if this court disagrees with it.” Carrano v. Yale–New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 645–46, 904 A.2d 149 (2006); see also Considine v. Waterbury, 279 Conn. 830, 858, 905 A.2d 70 (2006) (noting “ ‘rigorous' ” standard that must be me......
  • In re Elvin G., No. 19108.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 12 Noviembre 2013
    ...(failure of court to follow rules pertaining to decision on summary judgment motions). 4. See, e.g., Carrano v. Yale–New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 635–37, 904 A.2d 149 (2006) (rejecting argument that one-sided award of additional peremptory challenges was structural error that should h......
  • State v. Camacho, No. 16791.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 8 Mayo 2007
    ...first whether the trial court properly applied the two recognized hearsay exceptions. See, e.g., Carrano v. Yale-New Haven Hospital, 279 Conn. 622, 635 n. 15, 904 A.2d 149 (2006) (noting that this "court has a basic judicial duty to avoid deciding a constitutional issue if a nonconstitution......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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