Weiselfish-Giammatteo v. Board of Examiners for Physical Therapists
Connecticut General Statutes §19a-17 permits a board of examiners to fine a practitioner $25,000 and to issue a suspension. In June 2011, the defendant board of examiners for physical therapists started to conduct a hearing about the plaintiff, a physical therapist, and was informed that an attorney for the state Department of Public Health had had an ex parte communication with a member of the board. The plaintiff moved to terminate the hearing. The board was reconstituted. At the second hearing, the plaintiff was allowed to introduce documents and witnesses from the earlier hearing. The board overruled the plaintiff's procedural objection and found that the plaintiff failed to meet the standard of care, treated parts of a patient that were not injured and did not maintain adequate records. The board fined the plaintiff $10,000, suspended the plaintiff for two years and ordered the plaintiff to take continuing education. The plaintiff appealed. The court rejected the plaintiff's claim that the second hearing did not qualify as a "new" hearing. "[T]he correct procedure when an ex parte contact, found inappropriate, occurs," wrote the court, "is to disqualify the adjudicators, not to dismiss the entire disciplinary hearing." The plaintiff failed to establish prejudice from the admission of exhibits that relate to chiropractic medicine, over which the board of examiners for physical therapists allegedly lacks jurisdiction. Generally, evidence is admitted in administrative hearings unless it will substantially prejudice a party. Absent evidence of prejudice, the court rejected the plaintiff's claim the board wrongly admitted exhibits. "The board," wrote the court, "did not attribute to the plaintiff any misconduct based on the treatment provided to patient #1 at the chiropractic facility." The plaintiff also claimed the board abused its discretion when it fined the plaintiff $10,000. "The board," wrote the court, "took into account the dangers to the public where a licensee was not in compliance with the standards of the profession and also that the plaintiff had previously entered into a consent decree for similar violations." The plaintiff failed to prove that the board abused its discretion, and the court dismissed the plaintiff's appeal.