Wilcox v. Schwartz
A written opinion satisfies the "detailed basis" requirement of C.G.S. §52-190a(a) if it sets forth the basis of the similar health care provider's opinion that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence by express reference to what the defendant did or failed to do to breach the applicable standard of care. Kristy and Timothy Wilcox brought this malpractice action against Daniel Schwartz, a general surgeon and his employer, CBS Surgical Group, P.S., alleging that Schwartz negligently performed laparoscopic gallbladder surgery on Kristy Wilcox. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that the written opinion of a "similar health care provider" that accompanied the certificate of good faith as mandated by C.G.S. §52-190a(a) did not satisfy the "detailed basis" requirement of that statute because it failed to explain the particular manner in which Schwartz breached the standard of care. The plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment. The Supreme Court granted the defendants' petition for certification to appeal. Splitting four to three, the Court majority concluded that the Appellate Court properly reversed the dismissal and affirmed the judgment. Considering the statutory language of C.G.S. §52-190a(a) with its legislative history, the majority concluded that a written opinion must state the similar health care provider's opinion as to the applicable standard of care, the fact that the standard of care was breached and the factual basis of the similar health care provider's conclusion concerning the breach of the standard of care. The majority found that the written opinion at issue met this standard. The author "conclude[d] . . . to a reasonable degree of medical probability" that, based on his "education, training and experience as a physician, and [an] examination of . . . . Wilcox's medical records," Schwartz "deviat[ed] from the applicable [standard] of care" and was "negligent" in "fail[ing] to prevent injury to . . . Wilcox's biliary structures during laparoscopic [gallbladder] surgery . . ." The majority disagreed with the defendants and the dissent that a written opinion must identify the precise manner in which the standard of care was breached. When, as here, a health care professional opines that the injuries sustained would not have occurred but for the breach of the standard of care, that opinion is sufficient to satisfy C.G.S. §52-190a(a). Chief Justice Rogers with whom Justices Norcott and Zarella joined, dissented.