State v. Charlotte Hungerford Hospital
A party must receive one opportunity for appellate review before it will be subject to the application of collateral estoppel. This case arose from a claim before the claims commissioner concerning the death of a woman confined at the York Correctional institution. The decedent's mother, the claimant, who is not a party to this action, sought damages from the state as the co-administrator of the estate of her deceased daughter. The commissioner issued subpoenas to the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital requesting information about the decedent's treatment there pursuant to C.G.S. §4-151(c). The hospital refused to comply arguing, inter alia, that the commissioner lacked authority to issue subpoenas to nonparties. The state applied to the trial court for an order to compel the hospital's compliance pursuant to C.G.S. §4-151(e). The trial court ordered the hospital to comply with the subpoenas. The hospital appealed and the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's decision. The Supreme Court granted the hospital's petition for certification to appeal the issue of whether the Appellate Court properly determined that the subpoena power conferred upon the commissioner by C.G.S. §4-151(c), permits him to subpoena documents from a respondent that has not been named as a party to the suit that the commissioner has been asked to authorize. Thereafter, the claimant settled the underlying case, releasing the state from any liability. Consequently, the state no longer sought to enforce the subpoenas. Because the court could no longer grant any relief, both parties agreed that the hospital's appeal was moot. The hospital filed a motion for vacatur, which the state opposed. The Supreme Court dismissed the case as moot, sua sponte, and vacated the judgments of the Appellate Court and trial court. The Supreme Court concluded that the lower court judgments should be vacated for two reasons. First, the hospital was not responsible for the mootness of its appeal. Secondly, the Appellate Court's unreviewable judgment may have preclusive effects against the hospital in subsequent litigation. Because the parties fully and vigorously litigated the legal issues before the Appellate Court, the hospital could well be precluded from contesting the state's interpretation of C.G.S. §4-151(c) in future litigation. The potential collateral estoppel consequences of an Appellate Court judgment, unreviewable because of mootness, provided support in favor of the vacatur.