JOHN JARMIE v. FRANK TRONCALE, M.D., et al., SC 18358
Judicial District of New Haven
Torts; Medical Negligence; Whether Trial Court Properly Struck Complaint; Whether Existence of a Physician-Patient Relationship is a Necessary Component of a Medical Malpractice Claim; Whether Defendants Owed a Duty of Care to Third Party. Frank Troncale, a physician specializing in gastroenterology, diagnosed and treated his patient, Mary Ann Ambrogio, for hepatic encephalopathy, which is an impairment of brain functioning that occurs secondary to advanced liver disease. While operating a motor vehicle after leaving Dr. Troncale's office, Ambrogio lost consciousness and crashed into the plaintiff, causing him injuries. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed this negligence action against Dr. Troncale and the Gastroenterology Center of Connecticut, P.C., alleging that Ambrogio lost consciousness due to her medical condition. The plaintiff claimed that in Dr. Troncale's medical specialty, it is generally known that those suffering from hepatic encephalopathy are unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. He alleged that his injuries were caused by Dr. Troncale's failure to warn Ambrogio not to drive. The defendants filed a motion to strike the complaint, which the trial court granted, on two grounds. First, finding that the claim sounded in medical malpractice, the court determined that because the plaintiff did not allege the existence of a physician-patient relationship between the parties, his claim could not succeed. In addition, the court found that even if the claim constituted an ordinary negligence claim, the defendants owed no duty to protect the plaintiff, a third party, from an injury caused by their patient. On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the court improperly relied on outdated and unpersuasive Superior Court legal authority in ruling that a non-patient is categorically barred from suing a physician for professional negligence. He maintains that the trial court, in adjudicating the duty issue, should have employed, as this court did in several cases involving non-patient claims of negligence against medical professionals, a two-step analysis consisting of examining whether the harm is foreseeable and whether the imposition of the duty is consistent with public policy. The plaintiff contends that, applying this analysis, the defendants owed him a duty of care consisting of the duty to inform Ambrogio that she was unable to drive safely.