Manginelli v. Regency House (SC20767)
Brendon Levesque and Michael Taylor are representing the defendants in one of the most significant cases to be considered by the Connecticut Supreme Court in the past several years. The case, which should be argued before the Court in April, concerns the Executive Orders that Governor Lamont issued after declaring a Public Health Emergency due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Specifically, the case is about Executive Order 7V, which Governor Lamont issued on April 7, 2020. Among other things, Executive Order 7V grants heath care professionals and health care facilities immunity from civil suits for damages because of injuries or death caused by the health care professional or facility while providing health care services “in support of the State’s COVID-19 response,” including damages caused by a “lack of resources.” The Order superseded and replaced any existing orders regarding liability, and says in part:
Notwithstanding any provision of the Connecticut General Statutes or any other state law, including the common law, or any associated regulations, rules, policies, or procedures, any health care professional or health care facility shall be immune from suit for civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been sustained because of the individual’s or health care facility’s acts or omissions undertaken in good faith while providing health care services in support of the State’s COVID-19 response, including but not limited to acts or omissions undertaken because of a lack of resources, attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, that renders the health care professional or health care facility unable to provide the level or manner of care that otherwise would have been required in the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic and which resulted in the damages at issue, provided that nothing in this order shall remove or limit any immunity conferred by any provision of the Connecticut General Statutes or other law.
The outcome of this case could have national effects
The ultimate question is whether the Executive Order grants immunity ONLY for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, or if immunity applies more broadly to other patients (like patients with heart conditions or cancer, for example), if the health care services were impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The answer to that question will have a very significant impact on the potential claims of any number of people in Connecticut who may have been injured while receiving health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and on the potential liability of heath care professionals and facilities who remained open during the height of the COVID-19 crisis and continued treating patients under almost impossible circumstances.
Because governors in other states have issued similar orders, the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision is also likely to be relied upon by those states as they try to interpret their own laws and executive orders.
Why is this case going before the Connecticut Supreme Court?
While most appeals go to the Connecticut Appellate Court, this appeal is going directly to the Connecticut Supreme Court as a question of substantial public interest under General Statutes section 52-265a.
In addition to interpreting the Executive Order, the case also involves the broader question of the Governor’s authority to issue executive orders that affect the common law (which is law created by the prior decisions of courts, as opposed to law created through statutes passed by the legislature). Executive Order 7V says that it suspends the common law, but the statute authorizing the Governor to issue executive orders in an emergency does not explicitly mention the common law, creating a possible question about the scope of the Governor’s authority. Because that question was not raised in the lower trial court, the case also concerns the Supreme Court’s authority to consider and decide questions that were not first addressed by a trial court (which it normally will not do).
The answers to these broader questions – concerning the scope of the Governor’s authority and the Supreme Court’s authority, respectively – will not only impact future cases, they also will shape the law of Connecticut by helping to define the powers of those two branches of our State government.