Sargis v. Donahue, No. 32992.

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtROBINSON
Citation65 A.3d 20,142 Conn.App. 505
PartiesCynthia SARGIS v. Terrence DONAHUE et al.
Decision Date14 May 2013
Docket NumberNo. 32992.

142 Conn.App. 505
65 A.3d 20

Cynthia SARGIS
v.
Terrence DONAHUE et al.

No. 32992.

Appellate Court of Connecticut.

Argued Dec. 4, 2012.
Decided May 14, 2013.


[65 A.3d 22]


Keith Yagaloff, South Windsor, for the appellant (substitute plaintiff).

S. Peter Sachner, for the appellees (defendants).


ROBINSON, BEAR and SULLIVAN, Js.

ROBINSON, J.

[142 Conn.App. 506]In this medical malpractice action, the substitute plaintiff, Robert S. Sargis, Sr., executor for the estate of Cynthia Sargis (decedent), 1 appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict filed by the defendants, Terrence Donahue, a physician, and New Britain Surgical Group, Inc. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court erred when it (1) applied an improper standard of proof for causation and (2) granted the defendants' motion.2 We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

[142 Conn.App. 507]The record reveals the following undisputed facts and procedural history. On September 23, 2002, Donahue performed laparoscopic repair of the decedent's umbilical and incisional hernia. The procedure involved the surgical implantation of a mesh on the decedent's abdominal wall. Following the surgery, the decedent developed complications. Five days after the surgery, on Saturday, September 28, 2002, she went to the New Britain General Hospital emergency room complaining of redness and bruising around the incision site, and potential bronchitis. At the emergency room, the decedent received an intravenous dose of an antibiotic and an oral antibiotic, Zithromax, in a five tablet dosing package called a Z-pak. The decedent was administered two tablets at the hospital during her emergency room visit, and thereafter she took one each day thereafter until the pack was finished, on the following Tuesday. The consultation report provided to Donahue's medical partner from the emergency room noted that there were signs of bruising but no inflammation around the incision site.

Two days after the emergency room visit, on Monday, September 30, 2002, Donahue

[65 A.3d 23]

examined the decedent at his office. He noted symptoms that indicated possible cellulitis on the skin over the area where the mesh had been implanted, but did not perform any microbiological testing, prescribe any additional antibiotics or treat the decedent's abdominal redness. Rather, he directed the decedent to finish the Z-pak that she had received at the emergency room.

Three weeks later, on October 21, 2002, Donahue again examined the decedent, diagnosed her with cellulitis and, for the first time, prescribed two antibiotics for her. Approximately five weeks after her surgery, however, on November 1, 2002, the decedent was admitted to the hospital for an exploratory laparotomy and surgical removal of the mesh located on the abdominal [142 Conn.App. 508]wall, which was infected. Additionally, she was diagnosed with edema and cellulitis of the skin around the mesh, and treated with intravenous and oral antibiotics. The decedent was discharged from the hospital on November 3, 2002. At various times from November 3 to November 29, 2002, the decedent consulted with Donahue for treatment of her abdomen. Following the mesh removal surgery, she had a disfigurement of her abdomen, experienced great pain and required additional surgery. The decedent then brought this medical malpractice action against the defendants, alleging that they failed to observe, evaluate and treat her postoperative infection timely and adequately.

During the trial, the defendants moved for a directed verdict at the conclusion of the plaintiff's case-in-chief and again after the defendants rested their case, but prior to closing argument. The court reserved decision each time. At the conclusion of the five day trial, the jury rendered a general verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $149,334, which the court accepted. The defendants subsequently filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Consistent with their position when they had moved for a directed verdict after the plaintiff's case-in-chief and after they had rested their case, the defendants maintained that the plaintiff had failed to offer, by way of requisite expert testimony, sufficient evidence regarding proximate cause for the decedent's injuries. They asserted that the plaintiff's relevant expert witness, Gabor Kovacs, a doctor board certified in general surgery, never testified with a reasonable degree of medical probability that Donahue's breach of the standard of care was a substantial factor in causing the decedent's injuries. The plaintiff filed an objection and the matter was heard on November 17, 2009. After oral argument, the court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefing on the issue of what evidence is required for causation in [142 Conn.App. 509]a medical malpractice action where the negligence of the physician is based on omissions rather than commissions of acts. Both parties submitted supplemental memoranda of law.

The court issued its memorandum of decision, granting the defendants' motion, and rendered judgment in favor of the defendants. The court's memorandum of decision began by setting forth the standard of proof for ordinary medical malpractice and the standard of proof for causation of an ordinary medical malpractice action. It then went on to note: “Connecticut recognizes a cause of action for lost chance, and the cases provide a helpful analytic framework for the claims in this case—that, as a result of the defendants' failure to diagnose and treat a postoperative infection, the infection was not eradicated and it spread, thereby causing injury to the plaintiff's decedent. The plaintiff and the defendants have employed such cases in presenting their arguments.” The court continued, quoting the standard of proof for lost chance actions as well as the

[65 A.3d 24]

legal standard for causation for a lost chance cause of action. After citing case law for the proposition that the opinions expressed by an expert must be more than speculation or conjecture, the court made its factual findings and legal conclusions. It found in relevant part that, “[h]aving reviewed the entire record ... the plaintiff has failed to sustain his burden to prove by way of expert testimony that the defendants' actions, or in this case inactions, were a proximate cause of the decedent's injuries as a result of a loss of opportunity for successful treatment. Rather ... Kovacs' testimony, while informative as to what should have been done by ... Donahue and why, failed to show that if what should have been done had been done it probably would have affected the outcome for [the decedent] in this case. Based on the record before the court, the evidence presented is insufficient to remove from the realm of [142 Conn.App. 510]speculation the issues of whether the breach of the standard of care was the proximate cause of her injuries.” After the court denied the plaintiff's motion to reconsider/reargue, this appeal followed.

The plaintiff filed a motion for articulation, which was denied by the court, but after this court granted the plaintiff's motion for review, we ordered the court to “articulate whether in ruling on the [defendants'] motion for judgment [notwithstanding] the verdict it applied a lost chance standard or a traditional malpractice standard when deciding whether the plaintiff met his burden of proof of establishing proximate cause, and, if the court applied a lost chance standard, then the court is further ordered to address the five requests for articulation ... contained in the plaintiff's December 27, 2010 motion for articulation.” The court articulated its decision, stating: “The court applied a traditional malpractice standard when deciding whether the plaintiff had met his burden of proof of establishing probable cause.”

On appeal, the plaintiff claims that court improperly granted the defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. We agree.

We begin with our standard of review. “The standard of review governing a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is the same [as that for a directed verdict] because a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict is not a new motion, but the renewal of a motion for a directed verdict.” (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Gagne v. Vaccaro, 255 Conn. 390, 400, 766 A.2d 416 (2001). “[O]ur review of a trial court's [decision] to direct a verdict or to render a judgment notwithstanding the verdict takes place within carefully defined parameters. [In determining whether the trial court has correctly set aside the verdict, we] must consider the evidence, including reasonable inferences [142 Conn.App. 511]which may be drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to the parties who were successful at trial.... [We will uphold a trial...

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16 practice notes
  • Cockayne v. The Bristol Hosp. Inc., AC 44241
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • February 8, 2022
    ...quotation marks omitted.) Procaccini v. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, Inc., supra, 175 Conn.App. 718-19; see also Sargis v. Donahue, 142 Conn.App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013). To determine whether the plaintiff has carried his or her burden with resp......
  • Cockayne v. Bristol Hosp., Inc., AC 44241
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • February 8, 2022
    ...Procaccini v. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, Inc. , supra, 175 Conn. App. at 718–19, 168 A.3d 538 ; see also Sargis v. Donahue , 142 Conn. App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013). To determine whether the plaintiff has carried his or her burden with respect ......
  • Procaccini v. Lawrence & Mem'l Hosp., Inc., (AC 38380).
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 22, 2017
    ...the traumatic agency, or by his opinion based upon a hypothetical question." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Sargis v. Donahue , 142 Conn.App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013)."[I]t is the plaintiff who bears the burden to prove an unbroken sequence o......
  • Arroyo v. Univ. of Conn. Health Ctr., AC 38701.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 15, 2017
    ...looking at the entire substance of the expert's testimony." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Sargis v. Donahue , 142 Conn.App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013)."[I]t is the plaintiff who bears the burden to prove an unbroken sequence ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • Cockayne v. The Bristol Hosp. Inc., AC 44241
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • February 8, 2022
    ...quotation marks omitted.) Procaccini v. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, Inc., supra, 175 Conn.App. 718-19; see also Sargis v. Donahue, 142 Conn.App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013). To determine whether the plaintiff has carried his or her burden with resp......
  • Cockayne v. Bristol Hosp., Inc., AC 44241
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • February 8, 2022
    ...Procaccini v. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, Inc. , supra, 175 Conn. App. at 718–19, 168 A.3d 538 ; see also Sargis v. Donahue , 142 Conn. App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013). To determine whether the plaintiff has carried his or her burden with respect ......
  • Procaccini v. Lawrence & Mem'l Hosp., Inc., (AC 38380).
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 22, 2017
    ...the traumatic agency, or by his opinion based upon a hypothetical question." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Sargis v. Donahue , 142 Conn.App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013)."[I]t is the plaintiff who bears the burden to prove an unbroken sequence o......
  • Arroyo v. Univ. of Conn. Health Ctr., AC 38701.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 15, 2017
    ...looking at the entire substance of the expert's testimony." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Sargis v. Donahue , 142 Conn.App. 505, 513, 65 A.3d 20, cert. denied, 309 Conn. 914, 70 A.3d 38 (2013)."[I]t is the plaintiff who bears the burden to prove an unbroken sequence ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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