LaBieniec v. Baker

In LaBieniec v. Baker, 11 Conn. App. 199, 207, 526 A.2d 1341 (1987), the complaint alleged a failure to detect lung cancer in X rays, which led to a spread of the cancer and a metastasizing to the plaintiff's brain. The plaintiff claimed that the delay in learning of the cancer caused him emotional distress and a decreased chance of survival. The Court noted that if a delay in a definitive diagnosis proximately harmed a plaintiff, a physician could be held liable, but that, although there was malpractice, i.e., negligence, in the misreading of the X rays, the malpractice was not shown to be the proximate cause of the injury. LaBieniec v. Baker, supra, 11 Conn. App. 207. The plaintiff did not show that he was in fact deprived of a chance for successful treatment and did not show that the decreased chance for successful treatment more probably than not resulted from the defendant's negligence. Id., 207-208. In LaBieniec, the court allowed an expert witness to testify as to proximate cause, but that testimony did not establish a causal connection between the negligence of the defendant and the plaintiff's injury. Id., 207. The Court recognized the existence of the "lost chance doctrine". In doing so, it adopted the so-called "traditional approach," as previously described, for demonstrating causation. The estate of the decedent plaintiff in LaBieniec brought an action against the defendant radiologist. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently failed to diagnose the decedent's lung cancer when he should have and that this failure caused the cancer to grow and spread, thereby decreasing the decedent's chances for survival. Id., 201. The Court stated that the plaintiff, to prevail on her claim that the defendant's negligent acts decreased the decedent's chance for successful treatment, "must show (1) that [the decedent had] in fact been deprived of a chance for successful treatment and (2) that the decreased chance for successful treatment more likely than not resulted from the defendant's negligence. . . . In other words, the plaintiff must show that what was done or failed to be done probably would have affected the outcome." Id., 207. The court stated that the plaintiff was required to prove that "the [defendant's] negligence in all probability, proximately caused the injury." Id., 208. The Court affirmed the trial court's decision to grant a directed verdict in the defendant's favor on the lost chance claim. The court noted that the plaintiff had failed to adduce any evidence in support of her belief that an earlier diagnosis would have affected either the course of treatment or the spread of the decedent's cancer. The court observed that the plaintiff had "failed to remove the decreased chance of successful treatment theory from the realm of speculation." Id., 210.