April 16, 2012
Authored by: Luke Lantta
Daniel Gross had a leg infection, which was treated in New York. After being discharged from the New York hospital, he went to Waterbury to further convalesce. He was admitted to Waterbury Hospital because of complications, and nine days later a hospital employee filed an application for appointment of conservator in Waterbury Probate Court. An attorney was appointed for Gross in the involuntary conservatorship action. A conservator was ultimately appointed, and a week or two later, the conservator placed Gross in the ‘locked ward’ of Grove Manor Nursing Home, Inc.
Gross filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was granted. A free man, Gross then brought a claim in federal court alleging that his civil rights were violated by the conservator, the attorney, and the nursing home. The federal court dismissed the case finding that the conservator, attorney, and nursing home were entitled to immunity from liability. Gross appealed and the federal appellate court certified several questions of Connecticut law to the Connecticut Supreme Court, mostly dealing with the immunity questions.
Well, how did the Connecticut Supreme Court respond?
In a lengthy opinion that drew a concurrence and dissent, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that under Connecticut law:
(1) Absolute quasi-judicial immunity extends to a conservator appointed by a probate court only when the conservator is executing an order of the probate court or the conservator’s actions are ratified by the probate court;
(2) Absolute, quasi-judicial immunity does not extend to attorneys appointed to represent respondents in conservatorship proceedings or conservatees; and
(3) Because of their function, nursing homes caring for conservatees are not entitled to quasi-judicial immunity under any circumstances.
Big rulings from Connecticut that reinforce the prudence of conservators seeking a probate court’s blessing for any potentially controversial act before taking that act.