LISA J. CEFARATTI v. JONATHAN S. ARANOW, M.D., et al., SC 19443/19444

Judicial District of Middlesex

 

      Torts; Medical Malpractice; Whether Apparent Authority Doctrine Applies in Tort Actions; Whether Statute of Repose Tolled Under Continuing Treatment Doctrine.  In 2003, Jonathan Aranow, a bariatric surgeon, performed open gastric bypass surgery on the plaintiff at Middlesex Hospital.  The plaintiff received follow-up medical care from Aranow until 2009.  During each follow-up appointment, the plaintiff told Aranow that she had abdominal pain.  She learned in 2009 that the cause of her pain was a surgical sponge that had been left in her abdominal cavity during the bypass surgery and, in 2010, she brought this medical malpractice action against Aranow, the hospital, and Aranow’s professional corporation claiming that Aranow was negligent in leaving the sponge behind.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the action was barred by the three year statute of repose in General Statutes § 52-584.  The trial court rendered judgment for the defendants, rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that summary judgment was inappropriate because there was a genuine issue as to whether the statute of repose was tolled under the continuing treatment doctrine.  The trial court also found in favor of the hospital on its claim that it could not be vicariously liable for Aranow’s negligence because Aranow was not its agent, apparent agent, or employee.  The plaintiff appealed, and the Appellate Court (154 Conn. App. 1) reversed in part and affirmed in part.  The court reversed the trial court’s determination that the continuing course of treatment doctrine could not operate to toll the statute of repose, ruling that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of fact as to whether the doctrine applied here.  The Appellate Court noted that, to avail herself of the doctrine, the plaintiff had to establish that she had an “identifiable medical condition” that required ongoing treatment or monitoring and that, after his allegedly negligent conduct, Aranow provided treatment or monitoring of that condition or could reasonably have been expected to do so.  While the trial court had determined that the identifiable medical condition was the sponge and that the plaintiff could not have reasonably expected Aranow to provide treatment for a condition he did not know about, the Appellate Court reasoned that the plaintiff had raised genuine issues as to whether Aranow was treating her for morbid obesity and as to whether Aranow provided her with ongoing treatment and monitoring for that condition.  The Appellate Court affirmed the determination that the hospital could not be liable for Aranow’s negligence under an apparent agency or apparent authority theory, ruling that it was bound by its statement in L & V Contractors, LLC v. Heritage Warranty Ins. Risk Retention Group, Inc., 136 Conn. App. 662, 670 (2012), that “the doctrine of apparent authority cannot be used to hold a principal liable for the tortious actions of its alleged agent.”  These are the plaintiff’s and the defendants’ appeals from the Appellate Court.  In the plaintiff’s appeal, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the doctrine of apparent authority does not apply to actions sounding in tort.  In the defendants’ appeal, the court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly applied the continuing course of treatment doctrine in determining what constitutes an “identifiable medical condition” under the doctrine.