Connecticut Supreme Court Determines the Relationship between the Merit Certificate Requirement and Statute of Limitations

Santorso v. Bristol Hosp., 2013 WL 1668331 (Conn. 2013)

In Plante v. Charlotte Hungerford Hosp., 12 A.3d 885 (Conn. 2011), the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that when a court dismisses a malpractice suit for failure to provide an opinion letter authored by a similar healthcare provider (Connecticut’s “merit certificate”), the plaintiff must submit a properly substantiated suit within the original limitations period. Failure to do so will time-bar the suit unless the plaintiff shows that his “failure in the first action to provide an [appropriate] opinion letter was the result of mistake, inadvertence or excusable neglect, rather than egregious conduct or gross negligence on the part of the plaintiff or his attorney.”

In Santorso, the plaintiffs failed to make this showing and the Court decided that their right to sue the defendant had expired. The fact that the plaintiffs’ original suit — unaccompanied with the requisite healthcare provider letter — was filed within the limitations period was of no consequence.

This approach to the limitations doctrine will motivate plaintiffs to rely on opinion letters and merit certificates coming from experts whose specialty completely aligns with the defendant’s.