Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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In this construction dispute between a property owner and a general contractor the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court that, in the absence of clear evidence of contrary intent by the parties, subcontractors are presumptively in privity with the general contractor for purposes of res judicata as to the subcontractors' claims that did not participate in arbitration.These appeals arose from disputes regarding the construction of a store expansion. Plaintiffs, the store owners, and the general contractor, pursuant to a contract between them, entered arbitration to resolve various disputes regarding the project. None of the five subcontractors (Defendants) were formally a party to the arbitration. The arbitrator issued an award ordering Plaintiffs to pay the general contractor $508,597 for sums due. Plaintiffs subsequently filed suit seeking to recover from Defendants. Defendants moved for summary judgment based on res judicata. The trial court denied the motions on the grounds that Defendants were not parties to the arbitration and were not in privity with the general contractor. The appellate court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants were in privity with the general contractor for purposes of res judicata and that Plaintiffs' claims were barred because they could have been raising during the arbitration. View "Girolametti v. Michael Horton Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this dispute between the Board of Education of the Town of New Milford (Board) and the New Milford Education Association (Union) the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying the Board's application to vacate a grievance arbitration award and granting the Union's application to confirm the grievance arbitration award, holding that the arbitrator did not manifestly disregard the law and properly concluded that the Union's grievance was arbitrable.The Union, which represented the teachers employed by the Board, filed a grievance alleging that the Board had violated an agreement between the parties. The arbitrator decided the grievance in the Union's favor. The trial court denied the Board's application to vacate the grievance arbitration award and granted the Union's application to confirm the award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) correctly denied the Board's application to vacate the grievance arbitration award on the grounds that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law by concluding that the doctrines of collateral estoppel and res judicata did not apply to bar the Union's grievance; and (2) the trial court properly concluded that the Union's grievance was arbitrable under the terms of the agreement. View "Board of Education of Town of New Milford v. New Milford Education Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court vacating an arbitration award setting the amount of an insured loss caused by a tree falling on the insured home.After her property suffered a casualty loss, Plaintiff filed a claim under the policy insuring her property. The parties’ adjusters were unable to agree on the amount of the loss, and Plaintiff invoked the policy’s appraisal provision., which provided that the award was not conditioned on judicial review. After the appraisal panel issued its arbitration award Plaintiff filed an application with the superior court seeking to vacate the award. The trial court granted the application to vacate on the grounds that it violated Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-418. The Supreme Court held that the trial court improperly vacated the arbitration award because the arbitrators did not violate section 52-418. View "Kellogg v. Middlesex Mutual Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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Genovese v. Gallo Wine Merchants, Inc., 628 A.2d 946 (Conn. 1993), which held that, under Con. Gen. Stat. 31-51bb, a factual determination made in a final and binding arbitration conducted pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement does not have a preclusive effect in a subsequent action claiming a constitutional or statutory violation, is still good law.Plaintiff brought the present action alleging that her termination was in retaliation for bringing a previous action against Defendant alleging sex discrimination and for engaging in protected speech. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel because the factual underpinnings of the claims had been decided against her by the board of mediation in arbitration proceedings. The trial court denied the motion, citing Genovese. Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, thus declining Defendant’s invitation to overrule Genovese. View "Spiotti v. Wolcott" on Justia Law

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A police union and the City of Norwalk were parties to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) governing the terms and conditions of employment for certain city police officers. The CBA provided that disputes over its interpretation will be resolved through arbitration. The Board of Police Commissioners determined that Stephen Couture, a police sergeant employed by the Norwalk Police Department, had violated departmental rules and that his employment should be terminated. Couture ultimately initiated an arbitration proceeding with the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration, and a majority of the arbitration board found that Couture had been terminated for just cause. The trial court vacated the arbitration award on the ground that the City had disciplined Couture twice for the same misconduct in manifest disregard of the law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration board’s decision was not in manifest disregard of the law, and therefore, the trial court improperly vacated the award of the arbitration board. View "Norwalk Police Union, Local 1727 v. City of Norwalk" on Justia Law

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Before they were married, Wife and Husband entered a prenuptial agreement. Approximately ten years later, Wife brought a marital dissolution action against Husband. In accordance with an agreement to arbitrate in the prenuptial agreement, the trial court ordered the parties to proceed to arbitration on the matter of the sale of the parties’ residence. The arbitrator issued a partial award and then a final award. The trial court confirmed the partial award and confirmed in part, modified in part, and vacated in part the final arbitration award. Defendant appealed. The trial court subsequently entered judgment dissolving the marriage, allocating property, interpreting the prenuptial agreement, and deciding all pending motions. Defendant filed a second appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly applied Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-66(c) to the agreement to arbitrate contained within the prenuptial agreement; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant’s motion for leave to file an amended answer and cross complaint; and (3) the arbitrator did not exceed her authority by issuing orders in contravention of the express terms of the prenuptial agreement. View "LaFrance v. Lodmell" on Justia Law

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Grievant, a state employee and a member of a Union, was terminated after he was caught smoking marijuana. The Union contested Grievant’s termination. Concluding that complete termination of Grievant’s conduct was not the only appropriate penalty for his misconduct, an arbitrator reinstated Grievant to his employment and imposed a number of sanctions and conditions short of termination. The trial court vacated the award, concluding that there was a well-defined public policy against the use of marijuana and that the arbitrator’s award violated that policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in concluding that reinstatement of the Grievant violated public policy. View "State v. Conn. Employees Union Indep." on Justia Law

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White Oak Corporation and the Department of Transportation entered into a contract for the reconstruction of a bridge and a portion of Interstate 95 in the City of Bridgeport. The project experienced significant delays such that the Department and White Oak reassigned the contract to another contractor for completion. White Oak subsequently filed a notice of claim and demand for arbitration seeking compensation for money wrongfully withheld by the Department, as liquidated damages, for delays in the project. An arbitration panel concluded that the liquidated damages clause in the parties’ contract was unenforceable, and therefore, White Oak was entitled to a return of nearly $5 million withheld by the Department. The trial court granted White Oak’s application to confirm the arbitration award. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the arbitration panel exceeded its authority in rendering an award on White Oak’s claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Appellate Court incorrectly determined that, in a prior action brought by the Department to enjoin the arbitration, the trial court limited the scope of the arbitrable issues in the present case to a claim of wrongful termination such that the arbitration panel lacked jurisdiction to decide White Oak’s liquidated damages claim. View "Dep’t of Transp. v. White Oak Corp." on Justia Law

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Kleen Energy Systems, LLC, an electric generating facility, entered into a contract with Connecticut Light and Power Company, an electric distribution company. A dispute subsequently arose concerning the proper interpretation of the contract’s pricing provision. At the request of Waterside Power, LLC, which had entered into a similar contract with Connecticut Light and Power, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, acting through the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (the Authority), conducted proceedings to resolve the dispute. Kleen Energy was a participant in, but not a party to, those proceedings. Waterside subsequently filed a petition for a declaratory ruling challenging the decision. The Authority issued a declaratory ruling denying Waterside relief. Kleen Energy filed an administrative appeal from the Authority’s ruling, claiming that it had a contractual right to submit the dispute to arbitration and that the Authority lacked jurisdiction to issue a declaratory ruling to resolve the dispute. The trial court ultimately concluded (1) the Authority had jurisdiction to issue a declaratory ruling to resolve the dispute, (2) Kleen Energy had waived its contractual right to arbitration, and (3) the Authority had properly resolved the dispute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in determining that the Authority had jurisdiction to resolve the pricing dispute. View "Kleen Energy Sys., LLC v. Comm’r of Energy & Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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Suzanne Listro, a social worker employed by the Department of Children and Families, was charged with manslaughter in the first degree and risk of injury to a child after a foster child in her care died. The Department dismissed Listro for cause due to her “serious misconduct.” Listro was later acquitted of the criminal charges. The collective bargaining unit for the Department’s social workers (the Union) filed a grievance on Listro’s behalf challenging her termination. An arbitrator denied Listro’s grievance. The superior court vacated the arbitrator’s award, concluding that the arbitrator exceeded her authority in using negligence as a standard and basis for her award. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that “negligence arguably came within the purview of the [collective bargaining] agreement” and was an appropriate term of the arbitrator to use to describe Listro’s conduct, which was the basis of her dismissal for just cause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in light of the just cause provision of the collective bargaining agreement and the notice to Listro that her conduct on the evening of the child's death provided the basis for termination, the trial court improperly granted the Union’s application to vacate the arbitrator’s award. View "AFSCME, Council 4, Local 2663 v. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law