Welcome to our Supreme and Appellate Court summaries webpage. On this page, I provide abbreviated summaries of decisions from the Connecticut appellate courts which highlight important issues and developments in Connecticut law, and provide practical practice pointers to litigants. I have been summarizing these court decisions internally for our firm for more than 10 years, and providing relevant highlights to my municipal and insurance practice clients for almost as long. It was suggested that a wider audience might appreciate brief summaries of recent rulings that condense often long and confusing decisions down to their basic elements. These summaries are limited to the civil litigation decisions based on my own particular field of practice, so you will not find distillations of the many criminal and matrimonial law decisions on this page. I may from time to time add commentary, and may even criticize a decision’s reasoning. Such commentary is solely my opinion . . . and when mistakes of trial counsel are highlighted because they triggered a particular outcome, I will try to be mindful of the adage . . . “There but for the grace of God . . ..” I hope the reader finds these summaries helpful. – Edward P. McCreery
Posted June 4, 2013
This was an Alabama-based dispute over a UConn Dorm project certified by the Alabama District Court to the Connecticut Supreme Court to decide three important insurance coverage issues of first impression. First, the decision held that under Connecticut law, property damage caused by defective construction may be an occurrence under a commercial general liability (CGL) policy. Under such CGL policy an insured can seek coverage for defective construction that causes property damage. The jurisdictions have been split on this issue with the CGL carriers arguing that their policies were meant to cover accidents, not act like construction surety bonds. The CT Court imposed the following restrictions to coverage: The work that caused the damage, must be unintended, and performed by a subcontractor, not the general contractor whose work is normally excluded from coverage under a CGL “your work” policy exclusion. Further, the Court noted that the defective work itself will not be covered under the policy. Only property damaged by the defective work will be covered. [For example, if a contractor incorrectly installed stairs, the repair cost would not be covered. But when the stairs fall and break the glass walls and tiles below, that would be a covered occurrence.]
Secondly, this decision holds that Connecticut law will not recognize a bad faith cause of action for failure to properly investigate a claim. Such failure may however be evidence used in a bad faith rejection of coverage claim. Though the Court seemed to limit this ruling to when the investigation was discretionary under the language of the policy, they seemed skeptical about ever allowing such a cause of action.
Thirdly, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that even if an insurer breaches its duty to defend, that does not mean it will automatically be liable for the entire amount of the ultimate settlement or verdict. Fearing this could impose coverage by a court decree, the decision holds that when there are multiple claims and only some triggered a duty to defend that the insurer breached, the insurer should only be responsible for that reasonable portion of the verdict / settlement connected to claims where the duty to defend was breached.
[Congratulations to Adam Cohen on this big win!] Adam represented the homeowners within a portion of a taxing district who wanted to secede from the district because no services were being provided to them. Several members from the rebel area got themselves elected to the board. Thereafter, they voted to hold a referendum on secession, where by statute, only the unit owners within the rebellious area could vote. When the vote succeeded, the remaining taxing district sued to declare the vote invalid. The basis of the plaintiffs' claim was that, as board members, the residents who voted for secession had violated a fiduciary duty to the voters of the entire district, because the secession would result in diminished tax revenues. The trial court agreed, but the appellate court reversed. The court confirmed Adam’s claims that elected officials do not owe a fiduciary duty to their constituents. The court emphasized the long-standing policy that courts should refrain from involving themselves in political issues, absent evidence of fraud. The decision notes that elected officials are not disqualified from voting on a matter, simply because their vote might benefit them, as well as their constituents.
As distinguished from disqualification in zoning-type matters, the issue that disqualifies an elected official must be personal and individual to the elected official. Disqualification is much broader in the zoning context. So long as the statute was properly followed, the secession may proceed. Due to Adam’s thoughtful guidance, the statute was properly followed and the court ordered the judgment to enter in favor of the defendants, who sought a declaratory ruling if the secession had properly occurred. [Luckily, the confederate states did not have the advice of Adam Cohen in 1863!]
Passenger sued the driver of a car when an accident killed them both. The defendant attempted to cross-claim for apportionment against the town and its employees, claiming a defective road construction project contributed to the accident. The defendant moved for summary judgment claiming § 13a-149 (Defective Highway Statute) prohibited apportionment claims. The defendant claimed that apportionment against a municipality was allowed under C.G.S. § 52-572(h) & (n). The trial court and the appellate court disagreed. C.G.S. § 13a-149 is the exclusive remedy for a defective highway claim. Under that statute, the defect must be the sole approximate cause of the injury. The municipality’s liability is defeated by the showing of any negligence on the part of any third party. The sole approximate cause doctrine precludes municipal participation with a contributorily negligent party. Accordingly, apportionment of liability is not possible under the statute.
A police officer injured when he slipped on ice in his own driveway as he walked to his motor vehicle to drive to work, is not covered under worker’s compensation.
Lender commenced a foreclosure on a construction loan for a partially completed house. In that proceeding, the homeowner filed a disclosure of no defense, and the foreclosure proceeded to judgment. Homeowner then sued the lender for bad faith, claiming that the loan went into default because the lender refused to advance construction requisitions. The Trial Court properly granted summary judgment to the lender because the claims were barred by res judicata when no defense was disclosed in the foreclosure action.
The facts and holdings of any case may be redacted, paraphrased or condensed for ease of reading. No summary can be an exact rendering of any decision, however, so interested readers are referred to the full decisions. The docket number of each case is a hyperlink to the Connecticut Judicial Department online slip opinion. ©2013 Pullman & Comley, LLC. All Rights Reserved.Back to Top