State v. Charlotte Hungerford Hospital
The subpoena power conferred upon the claims commissioner by C.G.S. §4-151(c) permits him to subpoena documents from a respondent that is not a named party to the suit that the claims commissioner has been asked to authorize. Jodey Charette sought permission, pursuant to C.G.S. §4-147, to sue the state for damages resulting from the death of Dayna Charette while in the custody of the Department of Correction. The claimant alleged the following facts. Following a court appearance, judicial marshals transported the decedent, complaining that she was not feeling well, to the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. She persuaded the attending physician to give her a large dose of methadone. The marshals returned the decedent to her cell at York Correctional Institution where she was found dead the next morning. The cause of death was determined to be methadone toxicity. The claims commissioner approved the state's request for the issuance of a subpoena ordering the hospital to produce certain documentation. The hospital declined to comply. The trial court granted the state's application for an order to compel compliance. The hospital appealed claiming first, that the claims commissioner had only limited statutory authority, which must be strictly construed, and, therefore, had no jurisdiction over the hospital, a nonparty to the underlying claims. The Appellate Court disagreed and affirmed the judgment. The powers conferred upon the claims commissioner by chapter 53 of the General Statutes were not subject to the same degree of judicial scrutiny that courts exercise, pursuant to C.G.S. §4-183 of the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act in their review of the decisions of other administrative agencies, as the hospital's argument assumed. The authority that the legislature expressly conferred upon the office of the claims commissioner is far-reaching. By authorizing the commissioner to decide whether a suit against the state is "just and equitable," C.G.S. §4-160(a), the legislature conferred upon the commissioner the same broad discretion that the legislature itself exercised before the enactment of the claims commission act. Because the delegation of authority to the claims commissioner was unambiguous and unequivocal, the court properly enforced the subpoena issued against the hospital. The hospital's constitutional challenges to the legislature's delegation of authority to the claims commissioner were rejected. A constitutional amendment to article tenth of Connecticut's constitution permitted the delegation.