In its opinion filed on June 4, 2020, the Connecticut Supreme Court held: “a determination of the amount of offer of compromise interest to be awarded is not an essential prerequisite to an appealable final judgment on the merits … the plaintiffs’ motion for offer of compromise and postjudgment interest did not seek an ‘‘alteration’’ of the judgment within the meaning of Practice Book § 63-1 (c) (1) … a decision to award offer of compromise interest under § 52-192a is ministerial and does not require the trial court to reconsider any aspect of the decision on the merits … We therefore conclude that the plaintiffs’ postverdict motion for mandatory interest under §§ 52-192a and 37-3b did not seek an ‘‘alteration’’ of the judgment within the meaning of Practice Book § 63-1 (c) (1) and certainly did not render the judgment ineffective. Rather, the motion ‘‘sought only what was due because of the judgment.’’ (Emphasis in original.) Buchanan v. Stanships, Inc., supra, 485 U.S. 268. The twenty day appeal period began to run on October 28, 2016, when the court accepted the jury verdict; see Practice Book § 63-1 (b); and expired on November 17, 2016, approximately one month before the defendants filed their appeal from the judgment rendered in accordance with that verdict on December 16, 2016. Accordingly, the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the appeal was untimely.”
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiffs filed their original complaint on December 12, 2011, alleging that the defendants committed medical malpractice during Leoma’s pregnancy and labor, and during the delivery of Jenniyah Georges, causing Jenniyah Georges to sustain severe, permanent injuries.
On May 16, 2013, the plaintiffs filed an offer of compromise directed to both defendants, offering to settle the claim for $2 million. The defendants did not accept the offer of compromise, which resulted in it being deemed rejected thirty days later by operation of law. The Connecticut medical malpractice birth injury case was therefore tried before a jury.
On October 28, 2016, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs of $4.2 million as against both defendants. The trial court accepted the verdict that same day. The defendants did not file any postjudgment motions challenging the jury’s verdict.
On November 8, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a motion seeking offer of compromise interest. The plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to such interest pursuant to General Statutes § 52-192a (c)3 and Practice Book § 17-18 because the defendants failed to accept the plaintiffs’ offer of compromise for $2 million and the jury’s verdict of $4.2 million exceeded that amount. The plaintiffs’ motion also sought postjudgment interest under General Statutes § 37-3b. The defendants filed an objection to the plaintiffs’ motion. On November 28, 2016, evidently as a result of a clerical error, an entry was placed on the electronic docket, stating ‘‘judgment on verdict for plaintiff.’’
On December 12, 2016, the trial court issued a memorandum of decision, awarding the plaintiffs both offer of compromise and postjudgment interest. With respect to offer of compromise interest, the court concluded that the ‘‘end date’’ for calculating the interest was the date the judgment was rendered and clarified that the judgment was rendered on October 28, 2016—the date the verdict was accepted by the court—not November 28, 2016. The court clarified that the docket entry made on November 28, 2016, which referenced November 28, 2016, as the date of the judgment, had been made in error. The court awarded the plaintiffs $1,639,496.55 in offer of compromise interest. The trial court also awarded the plaintiffs postjudgment interest under § 37-3b, to be calculated at 10 percent per year, commencing on November 17, 2016, twenty days from the date of the judgment, ‘‘subject to tolling as permitted by statute.’’
On December 16, 2016, the defendants filed an appeal with the Appellate Court, challenging both the jury’s verdict and the trial court’s awards of offer of compromise and postjudgment interest. The plaintiffs filed a timely motion to dismiss the appeal or, in the alternative, to dismiss the portion of the appeal challenging the jury’s verdict. They claimed that the defendants failed to file the 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 that motion, arguing that their appeal from the judgment rendered in accordance with the jury’s verdict was timely because they filed it within twenty days of the trial court’s December 12, 2016 memorandum of decision awarding the offer of compromise and postjudgment interest.
The Appellate Court granted in part the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss and denied the defendants’ motion to suspend the rules of practice to permit a late appeal. The Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court.
Source Georges v. OB-GYN Services, P.C., SC 20170.
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