Missing the deadline to file an appeal has potentially disastrous consequences, namely, the dismissal of the appeal and the possibility of a malpractice action. In Georges, et al. v. OB-GYN Services, P.C., et al., the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision to dismiss an untimely appeal after declining to suspend the rules of practice governing the filing of appeals.
In Georges, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants committed medical malpractice during the pregnancy, labor, and delivery of the minor plaintiff causing the plaintiff’s child “to sustain severe permanent injuries.” The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs on October 28, 2016 which the trial court accepted on the same day. The plaintiffs then moved for both offer of compromise interest, and post-judgment interest, which the trial court subsequently awarded. On December 16, 2016, the defendants appealed the jury verdict and the award of interest.
After filing the appeal, the plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss the portion of the appeal challenging the jury’s verdict arguing that the defendants had failed to file their appeal “within twenty days of the date the judgment was rendered, as required by Practice Book § 63-1(a).” The defendants filed an objection to the motion to dismiss. In addition, the defendants filed a motion to suspend the rules of practice arguing in the alternative that there was “good cause” to allow the untimely appeal. In support of their motion, the defendants argued that there was “widespread confusion in the trial court about the date the judgment was rendered.” The Appellate Court granted the motion to dismiss and denied the motion to suspend the rules of practice. The defendants then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court arguing that the Appellate Court “abused its discretion in denying their motion to suspend the rules of practice to permit a late appeal.”
On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision. In its memorandum of decision the Supreme Court stated that the Appellate Court has “broad authority to manage its docket” and “that reversal is required only where an abuse of discretion is manifest or where injustice appears to have been done.” Moreover, the Supreme Court stated that it did not see “any reasonable basis for such confusion” because “Practice Book §17-2 expressly provides that, if no motions under Practice Book § 16-35 or Practice Book § 17-2A are filed, the date of the judgment shall be the date the verdict was accepted.” The Supreme Court concluded that there was a “lack of any persuasive justification for the late filing” although also recognizing that “each case must stand or fall on its own merits.”
In sum, Georges provides a detailed overview of the appellate law governing whether to allow untimely appeals. As the Supreme Court touched upon in its memorandum of decision, appellants can always “take the obviously safer route” and “immediately appeal from the judgment rendered in accordance with the jury’s verdict” and amend the appeal, if necessary, later on. Faced with the possibility of dismissal, this is the sound approach and the lesson to be learned from Georges.
For more information on this decision, or on this topic, please contact Richard Fennelly in our Hartford, Connecticut office.