Charitable Immunity

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August 15, 2009

The Connecticut Legislature abolished the common-law defense of charitable immunity by statute in 1967. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557d provides: "The common law defense of charitable immunity is abolished and shall not constitute a valid defense to any cause of action."

However, Connecticut has a "Good Samaritan Law", which immunizes medical personnel, persons trained I cardiopulmonary resuscitation, railroad companies and employees, and other appropriate personnel from suit for damages incurred while administering emergency medical aid. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557b. "Good Samaritan Law. Immunity from liability for emergency medical assistance, first aid or medication by injection. School personnel not required to administer or render." The Good Samaritan Law does not apply if the rescuer's act constitutes gross, willful or wanton negligence. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557b(a).

The donor and collector of food for the hungry have no liability for adulterated food unless they knew or had reasonable grounds to believe the food was adulterated or unfit for human consumption. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557 l. Directors, officers and trustees of tax exempt entities have immunity for acts performed within their duties unless such acts constitute reckless, willful or wanton misconduct. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-557m

Since the defense of charitable immunity has been abolished, hospitals can be held vicariously liable if any of their admitted agents or employees are liable. The doctrine of corporate negligence is a separate and independent basis for liability on the part of hospitals. "Corporate negligence is the failure of the officers or directors who constitute the governing board of a corporation, acting as a board, to maintain the standard of conduct required of the particular corporation, rather than the personal negligence of the corporation's ordinary employees."[1]

An allegation that a hospital is liable because it failed to provide proper supervision, training, education, control and qualified staff in accord with accepted prudent standards of care within the medical community is in effect an allegation of corporate negligence.[2] In a medical malpractice case expert testimony is required to prove the standard of professional care to which the defendant is held, and that the defendant failed to conform to that standard of care. Where there is a claim of corporate negligence in operation of a hospital, there must be expert testimony of the standard of care applicable to similar hospitals and that the hospital's conduct did not meet that standard.[3]

[1] Buckley v. Lovallo, 2 Conn. App. 579, 582 (1984); see also Logan v. Greenwich Hospital, 191 Conn. 282, 304 (1983).

[2] See Fontaine v. Clement, 2009 Conn. Super. LEXIS 963; Olszewski v. New Britain Gen. Hosp., 1999 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1664.

[3] See DeColon v. Danbury Hospital, 1992 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3663.