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Welcome to our Supreme and Appellate Court summaries webpage.  On this page, I provide abbreviated summaries of decisions from the Connecticut appellate courts which highlight important issues and developments in Connecticut law, and provide practical practice pointers to litigants.  I have been summarizing these court decisions internally for our firm for more than 10 years, and providing relevant highlights to my municipal and insurance practice clients for almost as long.  It was suggested that a wider audience might appreciate brief summaries of recent rulings that condense often long and confusing decisions down to their basic elements.  These summaries are limited to the civil litigation decisions based on my own particular field of practice, so you will not find distillations of the many criminal and matrimonial law decisions on this page.  I may from time to time add commentary, and may even criticize a decision’s reasoning. Such commentary is solely my opinion . . . and when mistakes of trial counsel are highlighted because they triggered a particular outcome, I will try to be mindful of the adage . . . “There but for the grace of God . . ..”  I hope the reader finds these summaries helpful. – Edward P. McCreery

Posted March 21, 2014

Commissioner of Public Health v. Freedom of Information Com'n

_____Conn._____ (2014), 2014 WL 1016243

Newspaper made a demand under FOIA against the CT Dept. of Health seeking records kept pursuant to the National Practitioner Data Bank (Practitioner Data Bank) and the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (Healthcare Data Bank).  These are national clearinghouses for, inter alia, information from health care entities and licensing boards regarding adverse actions taken against physicians and other licensed health care practitioners.  In particular, the newspaper was seeking records about a doctor accused of using his own sperm to inseminate fertility patients when a patient’s civil lawsuit was settled confidentially. The doctor also settled with the Deptartment of Health by consenting to a reprimand and a $10,000 fine without admitting any guilt.   The Freedom of Information Commission, concluded that federal law permits disclosure of Practitioner Data Bank records but does not permit disclosure of the Healthcare Data Bank records.

This Supreme Court decision authored by Justice McDonald, noted that the Healthcare Data Bank and the Practitioner Data Bank are complementary to each other. For example, adverse actions reported to the Healthcare Data Bank include some of the same information reported to the Practitioner Data Bank, such as licensure actions.  The language of the Acts, however, differed greatly on whether the gathered data was to be deemed confidential, and even suggested it could be disclosed under one, but not the other.  The Court concluded that there was persuasive evidence, and that despite textual differences, the regulations were intended to be construed consistently with one another, especially when subsequently passed regulations were considered.  These regulations amounted to subsequent, clarifying enactments.  Such clarifying language is not, as a substantive matter, applied retroactively, because the clarification simply makes clear what the law meant all along.

The Court concluded that the federal statutory and regulatory schemes that were in effect when the newspaper made its request established that the records requested from both the Practitioner Data Bank and the Healthcare Data Bank would not be subject to disclosure under either Act.

 

The facts and holdings of any case may be redacted, paraphrased or condensed for ease of reading.  No summary can be an exact rendering of any decision, however, so interested readers are referred to the full decisions.  The docket number of each case is a hyperlink to the Connecticut Judicial Department online slip opinion.  ©2014 Pullman & Comley, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

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