Connecticut's 52-590a Medical Opinion Letter Requirement - Reasonable Inquiry or Unreasonable Law
In Connecticut, many medical malpractice cases are dismissed before the first witness can be called. This is because of an amendment to Connecticut’s Tort Reform Act of 1986 passed in 1995 by the Connecticut Legislature requiring an opinion letter by a medical expert as a threshold requirement for filing lawsuit in Connecticut for medical malpractice cases.
The problem is that the requirements for the medical opinion letter are demanding and exact. Lawyers for the defendants and insurance companies often succeed in getting cases dismissed on the ground that the letter is not sufficiently detailed. If the statute of limitations has passed, this may ultimately mean that the plaintiff will go uncompensated.
The question now appears whether the requirement of a detailed opinion letter keeps legitimate cases from reaching the courts and not merely frivolous cases, as the Connecticut legislature originally intended. In 2011, a bill was introduced in Connecticut to soften the requirement of the opinion letter, but it was ultimately defeated. A similar bill will likely be considered again in some form in the future.
At Alan Barry & Associates, LLC we have extensive experience assisting physicians to draft opinion letters that withstand the challenges of the best medical malpractice defense attorneys in Connecticut.
As a starting point, each opinion letter should include the following:
1) Statements that clearly identify the doctor(s) that committed the medical malpractice;
2) Statements that detail the actions or omissions that constituted medical malpractice;
3) Statements that indicate the medical malpractice caused the plaintiff injuries, and;
4) Statements that clearly indicate that the authoring physician is a "similar health care provider" to the negligent doctor(s).
Under Connecticut law,
If the defendant health care provider is not certified by the appropriate American board as being a specialist, is not trained and experienced in a medical specialty, or does not hold himself out as a specialist, a "similar health care provider" is one who: (1) Is licensed by the appropriate regulatory agency of this state or another state requiring the same or greater qualifications; and (2) is trained and experienced in the same discipline or school of practice and such training and experience shall be as a result of the active involvement in the practice or teaching of medicine within the five-year period before the incident giving rise to the claim. CONN. GEN. STATS. § 52-184c(b)
If the defendant health care provider is certified by the appropriate American board as a specialist, is trained and experienced in a medical specialty, or holds himself out as a specialist, a "similar health care provider" is one who: (1) Is trained and experienced in the same specialty; and (2) is certified by the appropriate American board in the same specialty; provided if the defendant health care provider is providing treatment or diagnosis for a condition which is not within his specialty, a specialist trained in the treatment or diagnosis for that condition shall be considered a "similar health care provider." CONN. GEN. STATS. § 52-184c(c)
Each statutory requirement of CONN. GEN. STATS. § § 52-190a and 52 184c must be addressed carefully. For example, if the defendant doctor is not board certified, or does not hold himself out as a specialist, it must appear on the face of the letter that the authoring physician was in active practice or teaching medicine within the 5 year period immediately proceeding the date of the malpractice.
Therefore, a medical letter stating that "I have been in the active practice of medicine for more than 30 years" would be open to attack. The letter, in proper form, would state:
"I have been in the active practice of dentistry continuously for the last 30 years" to show that the practice of medicine was within the 5 years immediately proceeding the date of the alleged malpractice.
Ultimately, each medical opinion letter must be reviewed by an experienced medical malpractice lawyer prior to filing suit. At Alan Barry & Associates, LLC, we have the experience to ensure that your medical opinion letter meets the legal requirements and will withstand attack by defense attorneys. Contact us at 203.797.9600 to schedule a free consultation.
We are fortunate to live in a community where our health care is so important. Despite the fact that we have excellent hospitals and doctors, accidents and mistakes can and do happen. Contact us for a free and comprehensive review of your medical malpractice case.