ANNA MARIE GILLOTTI BLAKELY, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF BENNY A. GILLOTTI v. DANBURY HOSPITAL, SC 19461

Judicial District of Danbury

 

     Appellate Jurisdiction; Final Judgment; Whether Order Denying Motion for Summary Judgment that Claimed that Wrongful Death Action was Untimely Under General Statutes § 52-555 Immediately Appealable.  Benny Gillotti was injured in a fall in the defendant hospital’s parking lot.  He died, and his estate brought a wrongful death action against the defendant pursuant to General Statutes § 52-555, alleging negligence in the maintenance of the parking lot.  That action was dismissed on the ground that the estate was not a legal entity and therefore lacked standing to sue.  The plaintiff, as administratrix of Gillotti’s estate, subsequently brought the present wrongful death action.  The defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that the action was barred because it was not brought within two years from the date of Gillotti’s death as provided by § 52-555 (a).  The trial court denied the motion, ruling that the prior action was dismissed for a “matter of form” and that the new action was timely filed pursuant to the accidental failure of suit statute, General Statutes § 52-592.  The defendant appealed, and the Appellate Court ordered a hearing on whether the appeal should be dismissed for lack of a final judgment, citing precedent establishing that the denial of a motion for summary judgment ordinarily is an interlocutory ruling and not a final judgment for purposes of appeal.  After the hearing, the Appellate Court dismissed the appeal, and the Supreme Court has granted the defendant certification to appeal the judgment of dismissal.  The defendant claims that the denial of its motion for summary judgment constitutes an appealable final judgment under State v. Curcio, 191 Conn. 27, 31 (1983), which holds that an otherwise interlocutory order is immediately appealable if it (1) terminates a separate and distinct proceeding, or (2) so concludes the rights of the parties that further proceedings cannot affect them.  The defendant notes that the Connecticut Supreme Court has held that the rejection of claims that invoke a defendant’s right not to go to trial on the merits, such as claims of collateral estoppel or sovereign immunity, satisfy the second prong of Curcio under the rationale that a defendant’s purported right to avoid trial would be irretrievably lost if an immediate appeal were not allowed.  The defendant argues that the same rationale applies here.  Specifically, it asserts that, while a nonjurisdictional statute of limitations merely provides relief from liability, a jurisdictional limitation period, such as the one in § 52-555 (a), provides “freedom from suit,” citing St. Paul Travelers Cos. v. Kuehl, 299 Conn. 800, 815 (2011).  It thus contends that § 52-555, similar to the doctrines of collateral estoppel and sovereign immunity, confers upon it a vested right to be free from an untimely suit such that the denial of its motion for summary judgment constitutes an appealable final judgment under the second prong of Curcio.