Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law
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The case involves a dispute between a bank and a homeowner over a foreclosure action. The bank sought to foreclose on a mortgage after the homeowner defaulted on a promissory note secured by the mortgage. The mortgage agreement included a provision authorizing the bank to purchase force placed insurance coverage for the property if the homeowner failed to maintain adequate coverage. The homeowner alleged that the bank was involved in an undisclosed kickback scheme with an insurance provider, which led to him being charged more than the cost of purchasing the force placed coverage, contrary to the provisions of the mortgage agreement and certain representations the bank had made to him. The bank filed a motion to strike the special defenses and the counterclaim, which the trial court granted in part. The trial court subsequently granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment as to liability and rendered judgment of foreclosure by sale, from which the homeowner appealed.The Supreme Court of Connecticut denied the bank's motion to dismiss the appeal, concluding that the filed rate doctrine, as applied by the federal courts, did not affect the court’s subject matter jurisdiction over this appeal. The court also found that the trial court improperly struck the homeowner’s special defenses of unclean hands and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The court reasoned that the homeowner's allegations were directly related to the bank's enforcement of the provision of the mortgage agreement authorizing the bank to purchase force placed insurance, and the alleged effect of the bank’s conduct in enforcing that provision, that it wrongfully increased the homeowner’s overall debt, provided a sufficient nexus to the foreclosure action. The court reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "M&T Bank v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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In this Connecticut case, the plaintiff, Erin C. Hassett, purchased a used motor vehicle from the defendant, Secor’s Auto Center, Inc., and experienced mechanical problems shortly after the purchase. The plaintiff claimed the defendant breached its warranty by refusing to make necessary repairs and, as a result, she revoked her acceptance of the vehicle. The plaintiff brought legal action against the defendant, alleging breach of warranty and revocation of acceptance under statute § 42a-2608. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff, including on her revocation of acceptance claim, awarding her $11,000 in damages.The plaintiff then moved for additur, requesting a refund of the full purchase price of the vehicle in addition to the $11,000 award. The trial court denied the motion, and the Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision. The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court of Connecticut, arguing that she was entitled to the $11,000 award plus a refund of the full purchase price because the jury found in her favor on her revocation of acceptance claim.The Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision, concluding that the trial court had not abused its discretion in denying the plaintiff’s motion for additur. The court found that the issue of revocation of acceptance damages had been submitted to the jury as a matter of disputed fact. The jury's award of $11,000 was determined to represent revocation of acceptance damages equivalent to its determination of "so much of the price as had been paid" in accordance with § 42a-2-711 (1). The plaintiff's argument that the court should have determined the proper measure of revocation of acceptance damages post-verdict was rejected. The court found that the plaintiff's dissatisfaction with the verdict did not constitute grounds to award her the full purchase price of the vehicle as a matter of law. View "Hassett v. Secor's Auto Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the trial court sustaining Plaintiffs' administrative appeal and remanding this case to the Commissioner of Banking for further proceedings as to Plaintiffs' entitlement to tribal sovereign immunity in administrative proceedings, holding that the trial court erred in part.At issue was whether a business entity shared sovereign immunity with Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, a federally-recognized tribe. On appeal, Plaintiffs - Clear Creek Lending, Great Plains Lending, LLC, and John Shotton, chairman of the Tribe - claimed that the trial court improperly allocated the burden of proving entitlement to tribal sovereign immunity to Plaintiffs, improperly required proof of a functioning relationship between the entities and the tribe, and improperly failed to find Shotton immune in further administrative proceedings. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the entity claiming arm of the tribe status bears the burden of proving its entitlement to that status; (2) Great Plains was an arm of the tribe and Shotton was entitled to tribal sovereign immunity but not injunctive relief; and (3) there was insufficient evidence that Clear Creek was an arm of the tribe as a matter of law. View "Great Plains Lending, LLC v. Department of Banking" on Justia Law

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Defendant financed his purchase of a used car with a retail installment loan from Plaintiff. Defendant defaulted on the loan, so Plaintiff repossessed the car and sold it. Plaintiff then brought this action against Defendant seeking a deficiency judgment, interest, and attorney’s fees. The trial court awarded Plaintiff compensatory damages and costs and attorney’s fees. The court also awarded prejudgment interest under Conn. Gen. Stat. 37-1 at the contract rate of 9.14 percent and discretionary postjudgment interest under Conn. Gen. Stat. 37-3a at an annual rate of two percent. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly awarded discretionary postjudgment interest pursuant to section 37-3a. The Appellate Court affirmed, determining that the entry of judgment terminated the accrual of postmaturity interest on the loan, leaving any award of postjudgment interest to the trial court’s discretionary powers under Conn. Gen. Stat. 37-3a(a). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Appellate Court improperly concluded that postmaturity interest terminates upon the entry of judgment in the absence of a specific agreement for postjudgment interest; and (2) because the parties’ loan contract did not disclaim postmaturity interest Plaintiff was entitled to postmaturity interest under section 37-1(b). View "Sikorsky Fin. Credit Union, Inc. v. Butts" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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At issue in this case was whether the interest rates applicable to pawnbroker repurchase agreements are governed by the pawnbroker interest rate statute or the usury statute or whether these agreements are regulated at all. Defendant-pawnbroker entered into five separate repurchase transactions with Plaintiff pursuant to which Plaintiff agreed to sell personal property items for Defendant and to hold those items subject to Plaintiff’s right to repurchase them. After a dispute over the fees Defendant charged Plaintiff to secure the right to repurchase those items, Plaintiff brought this action claiming, inter alia, that Defendant’s actions violated the pawnbroker interest rate statute. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the rate limits set forth in the pawnbroker interest rate statute do not apply to repurchase transactions. The district court certified questions of law to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered (1) the pawnbroker interest rate statute does not govern the rates that pawnbrokers may charge in connection with repurchase agreements; and (2) the interest rates applicable to pawnbroker repurchase agreements are governed by the usury statute. View "Gilmore v. Pawn King, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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Midland Funding obtained judgments against Plaintiff Susan Ballou in two cases. The small claims court entered installment payment orders pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-356d. Defendant, the Law Offices Howard Lee Schiff, P.C., which represented Midland in small claims court, did not apply for an order of postjudgment interest in either of the two cases, and the small claims court did not issue an order of postjudgment interest in either case. Defendant thereafter sought a bank execution against Plaintiff for the judgment amounts and directed the state marshal to add postjudgment interest of ten percent to the amount of the judgments. Plaintiff commenced an action in the U.S. district court disputing the amount of the debts. At issue before the court was whether postjudgment interest accrues automatically on any unpaid balance under a judgment for which the court has entered an installment payment order. The Connecticut Supreme Court accepted certification to answer this question and held that section 52-356d(e) does not provide for the automatic accrual of postjudgment interest on all judgments in which an installment payment order has been entered by the court. View "Ballou v. Law Offices Howard Lee Schiff, P.C." on Justia Law

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This case concerned the distribution of surplus proceeds from a foreclosure sale of property encumbered by multiple successive mortgages obtained through fraud. Defendant Stewart Title Guaranty Company appealed from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of Defendant First American Title Insurance Company and ordering that the remaining proceeds of a foreclosure sale be distributed to First American. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court properly granted First American's motion to intervene in the action, (2) the trial court applied a proper standard of review in granting relief pursuant to First American's motion to reargue the trial court's decision determining the priorities of the parties; and (3) the trial court's conclusion that First American was entitled to receive all of the remaining funds from the foreclosure sale could be upheld on the alternate ground that, because First American's mortgage was recorded prior in time to Stewart Title's mortgage, it was entitled to all of the surplus proceeds on deposit pursuant to the first in time, first in right rule. View "Hudson Valley Bank v. Kissel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff HVC Inc. was a trustee of the Honda Lease Trust. During the audit period at issue, several car dealerships entered into thousands of leases with customers (lessees) pursuant to lease plan agreements between the dealerships, the trust, and the servicer of the trust. Under the leases, the lessees were responsible for submitting the vehicle registration renewal application and renewal fees to the department of motor vehicles on behalf of the trust. Upon receipt of the renewal application and fee, the department sent the vehicle registration card to the trust, and the trust forwarded the vehicle registration card to the appropriate lessee. After conducting a sales and use tax audit for the audit period from April 1, 2001 through October 31, 2004, Defendant Pamela Law, the then commissioner of revenue services, issued a deficiency assessment against Plaintiff, concluding that the renewal fees constituted taxable gross receipts of the trust and, therefore, were subject to the sales tax. The trial court rendered summary judgment partially in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the renewal fees paid by the lessess qualified as Plaintiff's gross receipts subject to sales tax under Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-408(1). View "HVT, Inc. v. Law" on Justia Law