Trip and fall at hospital ruled ordinary negligence, not malpractice

In Multari v. Yale New Haven Hosp., Inc., the Connecticut Appellate Court reversed the trial court's order dismissing the plaintiff's claim against a hospital in a trip-and-fall case. The Appellate Court ruled that the plaintiff's actually had asserted a claim against the hospital for ordinary negligence, rather than medical malpractice.

Background

On November 6, 2009, the grandmother went to the hospital with her son and granddaughter, where the granddaughter received surgery. After the surgery, the hospital's staff informed the grandmother that the child had been "thrashing around the recovery room as a result of the anesthesia." The hospital instructed the grandmother to take the child and leave, but the grandmother wanted to wait for her son to return, who had temporarily left the surgical area. Despite the grandmother's protests, a nurse ushered the grandmother and the child out of the hospital without providing them with a wheelchair. As she was leaving the hospital, the grandmother tripped and fell while carrying the child, a diaper bag, and her pocketbook, and sustained injuries.

Procedural history

The grandmother filed a negligence action against the hospital. The trial court held that the grandmother's complaint asserted a claim for medical malpractice and dismissed the suit due to the grandmother's failure to attach a merit certificate to the complaint as required by law.

The certificate of merit law applies in suits claiming personal injury or wrongful death resulting from the alleged malpractice of a health care provider. The attorney or party filing the malpractice complaint must attach a certificate of good faith or an opinion letter from a health care provider in the same field as the defendant certifying that there is a fundamental basis for the claim.

The Appellate Court's ruling

The Appellate Court stated that courts must closely review the circumstances under which the alleged negligence occurred in classifying the claim as either medical malpractice or ordinary negligence and use a three-part test announced from a prior Connecticut case, which held that a claim for medical malpractice is asserted when:

  • The defendants are sued in their capacities as medical professionals.
  • The alleged negligent act must be of a specialized medical nature and arise out of the medical professional-patient relationship.
  • The alleged negligence must be substantially related to medical diagnosis or treatment and involve the exercise of medical judgment.

The Appellate Court found that the first prong of this test was not met since the grandmother's complaint did not sue the hospital in its capacity as a medical provider. The court noted that the complaint characterized the hospital as a property owner, operating and having control over the premises, that negligently created a dangerous condition by not assisting the grandmother as she exited the hospital, carrying her granddaughter and other belongings.

The Appellate Court also concluded that the second and third prongs were not met. The grandmother did not claim that she had any patient relationship with, or received medical services from, the hospital, or that the hospital's decision forcing her to leave the hospital involved an exercise of medical judgment. The court stated that one could reasonably infer that the claim was that the hospital negligently forced the plaintiff to leave the premises unaided, causing her to trip and fall while carrying her groggy granddaughter and other possessions.

Individuals who have been injured as a result of negligence or other wrongful conduct of a health care provider are urged to immediately seek the assistance of a competent attorney experienced in personal injury and medical malpractice matters.