Justia Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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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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In the case, GenConn Energy, LLC, an electricity supplier, appealed to the Supreme Court of Connecticut, arguing that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) overstepped its authority by reducing GenConn's proposed return on capital for two of its peaking generation facilities. These facilities provide additional electricity to Connecticut consumers during times of increased demand. GenConn claimed that PURA was not allowed to lower GenConn's debt rate or to use the general rate-making principles found in a different statute when making its decision.However, the court rejected these arguments. It held that PURA acted within its statutory authority under § 16-243u when it reviewed GenConn's recovery of costs in line with the general rate-making principles of § 16-19e. The court highlighted the interrelated nature of cost recovery and rate setting, and deduced that PURA must be able to protect the interests of ratepayers if it determines that a company is overrecovering. The court also rejected GenConn's argument that PURA's decision was arbitrary and capricious. The court found substantial evidence in the record to support PURA's final decision and concluded that the decision did not constitute an arbitrary and capricious one. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of GenConn's appeal.The court's ruling implies that PURA has the authority to review a peaking generation facility's recoverable costs to ensure that the rates are "sufficient, but no more than sufficient," to cover the facility's operating costs. The decision also emphasizes the importance of PURA’s regulatory authority and the necessity of protecting ratepayers from bearing the financial burden of a company's overrecovery. View "GenConn Energy, LLC v. Public Utilities Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law

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A case in Connecticut involved a couple, Aaron Lynch and Jean-Marie Monroe-Lynch, who sought damages for alleged medical malpractice by the state of Connecticut in relation to therapeutic donor insemination (TDI) services and prenatal care provided at a state hospital. The couple were unable to conceive without medical assistance and pursued TDI services. The hospital staff failed to adhere to guidelines regarding the use of cytomegalovirus (CMV) positive donor sperm for CMV negative patients, leading to Jean-Marie being inseminated with CMV positive donor sperm. Jean-Marie later became pregnant with twins. During her pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed conditions associated with an in utero CMV infection, however, the hospital staff failed to inform Jean-Marie or take appropriate follow-up action. One of the twins died in utero from a severe CMV infection and the other was born with severe, lifelong medical conditions as a result of congenital CMV.The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the state could not claim sovereign immunity as the plaintiffs' fertility treatment claims were medical malpractice claims, not informed consent claims. The court also held that the plaintiffs' son, who was born with severe medical conditions as a result of the state's negligence, was entitled to compensation. The court found no merit in the state's claim that the damages awarded were speculative or predicated on the concept that nonexistence can be preferable to impaired existence. The court concluded that common-law negligence principles were adaptable to provide a remedy for injuries such as those sustained by the plaintiffs' son. This decision affirms the trial court's award of over $34 million in damages to the plaintiffs. View "Lynch v. State" 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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The case involves a defendant who was convicted, after a jury trial, of burglary in the first degree, criminal mischief in the first degree, and threatening in the second degree, among other crimes. The defendant had unlawfully entered his brother's residence and caused significant damage within it. Upon appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court had committed plain error by not identifying the specific crime or crimes he allegedly intended to commit when he entered the residence during the jury instruction on first-degree burglary.However, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held that the Appellate Court correctly concluded that the trial court had not committed plain error. The trial court's instruction accurately recited the elements of the burglary charge and clarified that the intent to commit a crime within the building is a distinct element. Furthermore, the court noted that although it is the better practice for trial courts to name the crime or crimes and define such elements in its instructions, it has never been clearly held to be mandatory.Additionally, the court found that even if there was a patent error in the court’s instruction, the omission did not result in a manifest injustice. The evidence presented at trial established that the defendant had violently forced his way into the residence and caused extensive damage, which satisfied the intent element. View "State v. Kyle A." 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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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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In the dispute over two slates of candidates each purporting to be the endorsed slate of the Independent Party of Danbury for various municipal offices in the city of Danbury, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that a town clerk has a ministerial obligation to accept and file with the Secretary of State's office lists of minor party candidates that are facially valid under the terms of the state statute. The court found that the town clerk exceeded her authority by failing to file a slate of candidates approved at an Independent Party meeting, and the court should have ordered the clerk to forward that slate to the Secretary of State's office. However, the court also held that the town clerk properly filed a slate of candidates approved at a different Independent Party meeting because the submission of that slate complied with the certification requirement of the state statute. The court concluded that, given the ministerial role of the town clerk, she had no choice but to accept and transmit to the secretary both filings purporting to be the endorsements of the Independent Party, since both were facially compliant with the governing statutes. The court affirmed the trial court's judgment that neither set of endorsements should be placed on the ballot. View "Alves v. Giegler" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The case involves Alico, LLC, a Massachusetts-based company with offices in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. The company's vehicles, used for business, were registered in Massachusetts, and taxes were paid in that state. However, the vehicles were primarily used and garaged in Somers, Connecticut, where the company's sole member and his wife, who also works for the company, reside. In 2018, the tax assessor in Somers, Connecticut, became aware of the presence of these vehicles and retroactively placed them on the town's 2017 and 2018 grand lists, assessing property taxes on them. The plaintiffs, Alico and its sole member, appealed this decision, arguing it was unconstitutional under the dormant commerce clause of the United States constitution. They claimed that because the vehicles were used in interstate commerce and already taxed in Massachusetts, the Connecticut property tax led to impermissible double taxation.The Supreme Court of Connecticut disagreed with the plaintiffs' arguments. The court ruled that the property tax authorized by Connecticut's statute did not violate the dormant commerce clause. The court applied the test set forth in Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, which determines the constitutionality of a state tax that is facially neutral but may impose a disproportionate burden on interstate commerce. The court found that the Connecticut tax was applied to an activity with a substantial nexus with the state, was fairly apportioned, did not discriminate against interstate commerce, and was fairly related to the services provided by the state. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court's denial of the plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment declaring the assessments unconstitutional. The court also noted that any double taxation was not the result of a discriminatory tax scheme, but rather the plaintiffs' business decisions. View "Alico, LLC v. Somers" on Justia Law