Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The case involves two plaintiffs, Glen A. Canner and Louis D. Puteri, who separately sued a condominium association, Governors Ridge Association, Inc., alleging that the foundations supporting their respective units were defective. The units, part of a common interest community, were purchased by Canner and Puteri in 2001 and 2002 respectively. The defendant had affirmed its responsibility for any foundation settlement issues. However, despite the units suffering significant, uneven settling and the defendant hiring several companies to investigate potential repairs from 2012 to 2016, no repairs were ultimately made. The plaintiffs commenced their actions in 2016 and 2017, alleging that the defendant had negligently designed and constructed the foundations and had violated its duties under the Common Interest Ownership Act (CIOA) by failing to conduct necessary repairs.The trial court concluded that the CIOA claims were time-barred by the statutory three-year limitation period generally applicable to tort actions. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s judgments, concluding that the limitation period set forth in § 52-577 applied because the claims sounded in tort rather than contract. The Appellate Court also agreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the declaration and bylaws created no duty to repair because the relevant declaration required the defendant to repair only insured common elements, and there was no requirement that the foundations themselves be insured.The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the Appellate Court properly applied the statute of limitations set forth in § 52-577 to the portion of the CIOA claims seeking recovery for negligence during the course of construction of the foundations. However, the Supreme Court found that the Appellate Court improperly upheld the trial court’s disposition, in favor of the defendant, of the claims that the defendant had violated its contractual duties under the bylaws to maintain, repair or replace common elements when it failed to effectuate repairs to the foundations. The Supreme Court concluded that the claims that the defendant breached its contractual duties imposed under the bylaws by failing to repair the foundations were governed by the six-year limitation period applicable to contract claims in § 52-576. The case was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Canner v. Governors Ridge Assn., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involves a lieutenant with the Hartford Police Department who filed a bill of discovery against a blogger who writes about Hartford municipal governance. The plaintiff is seeking to compel the defendant to release data that would reveal the identities of anonymous commenters on the blog who posted allegedly defamatory statements about him. The plaintiff also wants the defendant's laptop and cellphone to be submitted for forensic analysis.The trial court granted the plaintiff's bill of discovery, stating that the plaintiff had shown probable cause for his defamation claim against the authors of certain anonymous comments. The court ordered that the parties should try to agree on a protective order and search protocols to safeguard the defendant's privacy during the forensic analysis. If they couldn't agree, the court would resolve the dispute. The defendant appealed the decision before any negotiations took place.The Supreme Court of Connecticut dismissed the defendant's appeal, stating that the trial court's decision was not an appealable final judgment. The Court explained that the final judgment rule applies to a pure bill of discovery, and the trial court's decision wouldn't become a final judgment until the scope of discovery was clearly defined either by the parties' agreement or by court order. In this case, the parties hadn't yet complied with the court's order to either agree on the terms of the protective order and search protocols or to return to the court for resolution of those issues. Therefore, the trial court's decision was not a final judgment. View "Benvenuto v. Brookman" on Justia Law

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In a dispute between John Drumm, Chief of Police, et al. and the Freedom of Information Commission in Connecticut, the court was tasked with interpreting a provision of the Freedom of Information Act. The provision in question exempts from disclosure records of law enforcement agencies compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of a crime, if the disclosure of such records would result in the disclosure of information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action. The case arose from a request for documents related to a 2010 unsolved murder case by a filmmaker who was working on a documentary about the case. The request was denied by the police department, and the filmmaker filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission. The commission ruled in favor of the filmmaker and ordered the documents be provided. The police department appealed the decision, arguing that the commission failed to apply the correct legal standard.The court held that a "prospective law enforcement action" refers to a future law enforcement action that has at least a reasonable possibility of occurring, meaning that the occurrence is more than theoretically possible but not necessarily likely or probable. The court also clarified that under the first prong of the exception, a respondent before the commission must establish only that it is at least reasonably possible that the information contained in a requested document will be used in support of an arrest or prosecution. Because the commission had not applied this standard and had made clearly erroneous factual findings, the court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings before the commission. View "Drumm v. Freedom of Information Commission" on Justia Law

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The case involves a group of former firefighters who retired from the city of Meriden and claimed damages from the city and the Meriden Municipal Pension Board for alleged breach of a collective bargaining agreement. The plaintiffs, who retired in 2015, claimed that they should have received an increase in their pension benefits based on a 2% wage increase that was awarded retroactively in an arbitration process after the plaintiffs had retired. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that the defendants had breached the collective bargaining agreement by failing to recalculate the plaintiffs' pension benefits based on the retroactive wage increase.On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the trial court's decision. The Supreme Court held that the defendants did not breach the collective bargaining agreement. This conclusion was based on the fact that the pension plan did not allow for the recalculation of pension benefits for retirees who voluntarily retired before the issuance of the arbitration award. The court noted that the pension plan only allowed for a retroactive adjustment of pension benefits for those who were forced to retire due to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65. The court also held that the trial court did not lack subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case, rejecting the defendants' claim that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing the lawsuit. View "Stiegler v. Meriden" on Justia Law

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In this case, a petitioner who had been convicted of various larceny offenses filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus after exhausting his direct appeals. The petition was denied, and the judgment became final on May 9, 2012. Nine days before the judgment in that habeas action became final, the petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The federal habeas matter became final in June, 2015. On May 18, 2017, the petitioner filed a second habeas petition in the Superior Court challenging the conviction that was the subject of his first state habeas petition. The respondent, the Commissioner of Correction, requested that the habeas court issue an order directing the petitioner to show good cause why his second state habeas petition should not be dismissed pursuant to § 52-470 (e), claiming that it was filed after the applicable deadline in § 52-470 (d) of October 1, 2014. The habeas court issued an order to show cause for the delay. At an evidentiary hearing on the order to show cause, the petitioner’s counsel argued that the term ‘‘prior petition’’ in § 52-470 (d) was not limited to habeas petitions filed in state court and, therefore, the second state habeas petition was timely because it was filed within two years of the final judgment rendered in connection with the petitioner’s federal habeas petition. The habeas court dismissed the petition, concluding that it was untimely filed and that the petitioner had not established good cause to excuse the delay. The petitioner appealed to the Appellate Court, which affirmed the habeas court’s judgment.The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the term "prior petition" in § 52-470 (d) unambiguously refers solely to prior state habeas petitions and does not also include prior federal habeas petitions. Therefore, the petitioner’s second state habeas petition was untimely. The court also held that the habeas court properly exercised its discretion in determining that the petitioner had failed to establish good cause for the untimely filing of his second state habeas petition and properly dismissed that petition pursuant to § 52-470 (d) and (e). The petitioner’s claim that good cause existed because he was unaware of § 52-470 and its statutory deadlines when he filed the second state habeas petition was unavailing, as the petitioner’s lack of knowledge of the law, standing alone, was insufficient to excuse his late filing. The judgment of the Appellate Court was affirmed. View "Felder v. Commissioner of Correction" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that Plaintiff's motion to open and set aside a final judgment of divorce should have been denied instead of dismissed, holding that New York's plenary action rule "was so interwoven with Plaintiff's cause of action as to be deemed substantive."During their divorce trial, the parties in this case settled their dispute by entering into a separation agreement that incorporated New York's plenary action rule. After she moved to Connecticut with her new husband, Plaintiff filed a motion to open and set aside the divorce judgment, claiming fraud on the part of Defendant. The trial court applied New York's plenary action rule and dismissed the motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The appellate court held (1) under New York substantive law, Plaintiff was required to bring a plenary action; but (2) the trial court had jurisdiction to consider the motion to open, and therefore, the motion should have been denied rather than dismissed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plenary action rule was substantive, and therefore, the appellate court correctly determined that Plaintiff's motion to open and vacate the divorce judgment should have been denied. View "Gershon v. Back" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss the product liability claim against it, holding that the trial court did not err in concluding that personal jurisdiction was not authorized under Connecticut's applicable long-arm statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 33-929(f).Section 33-929(f) subjects foreign corporations to suit brought by a resident of the state on a cause of action "arising out of" the corporation's distribution of goods with the reasonable expectation that the goods are intended to be used, and are so used, in Connecticut. At issue was whether Defendant's contacts with Connecticut were sufficiently "related to" the litigation to satisfy Connecticut's long-arm statute and specific personal jurisdiction under the due process clause. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the "arise out of or relate to" requirement was not met in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish that their claim against Defendant arose from or related to Defendant's forum contacts. View "Adams v. Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction this complaint against Defendants, Board and More GmbH (B&M) and Emeram Capital Partners GmbH (Emeram), holding that Plaintiff, North Sales Group, LLC, failed to demonstrate that Defendants had sufficient minimum contacts with Connecticut.B&M was a limited liability company chartered under the laws of Austria, with its principal place of business in Austria. Emeram was a private equity investment limited liability company, with its principal place of business in Germany. Neither company had maintained an agent for service of process in Connecticut, nor did the companies maintain offices or transact business in Connecticut. At issue on appeal was whether Plaintiff advanced sufficient allegations and evidence to establish minimum contacts with Defendants. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff did not and that the trial court correctly dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. View "North Sails Group, LLC v. Boards & More GmbH" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this certified appeal as moot and vacated the judgment of the appellate court dismissing Defendant's appeal, holding that the appeal was moot and that vacatur was appropriate.This appeal concerned a subpoena that Plaintiffs served on Defendant seeking to depose her. Defendant filed a motion to quash, which the trial court denied. After Defendant appealed, Plaintiffs moved for permission to file an untimely motion to dismiss, arguing that the appeal was frivolous. The appellate court granted Plaintiffs' motion and dismissed the appeal. After the Supreme Court granted certification, Plaintiffs withdrew the subpoena. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiffs' withdrawal of the subpoena rendered his appeal moot; and (2) under the circumstances, vacatur of the appellate court's judgment, which was adverse to Defendant, was appropriate. View "Thornton v. Jacobs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court granting in part Plaintiffs' motion to dismiss Defendants' appeal from the judgment of the trial court rendered following a jury verdict in favor of Plaintiffs on certain medical malpractice claims and denied Defendants' motion to suspend the rules of practice to permit a late appeal, holding that the Appellate Court did not err.On appeal, Defendants argued that the Appellate Court erred in granting Plaintiffs' motion to dismiss the portion of the appeal challenging the jury's verdict as untimely and abused its discretion in denying their motion to suspend the rules of practice to permit a later appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the appeal was untimely; and (2) the Appellate Court did not abuse its discretion or work injustice by determining that Defendants had failed to establish good cause for their failure to file a timely appeal. View "Georges v. OB-GYN Services, P.C." on Justia Law