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 November 13, 2013
- SC19085 - Leonetti v. MacDermid, Inc.
This one slipped through the cracks but was interesting. Company fired a worker over deceitful conduct but entered into a settlement agreement to pay him $70,000 severance pay in consideration of his abandoning any and all claims against the company ….which by its broad terms would have included a long pending workers comp back injury claim……but the company did not appreciate that private agreements settling workers comp claims must be approved by the Commissioner as being reasonable. The Agreement did not specifically mention the back injury, nor allocate any specific portion of the consideration to settlement of that old claim. After the Agreement was signed and after the money was paid, the former worker’s attorney arranged for a W.C. hearing where the commissioner credited the testimony of the worker that none of the consideration was intended to apply to his prior injuries, but rather for his “years of service” at the company. This decision was upheld on appeal. While paying lip service to the Parol Evidence rule the decision recites numerous ways to get around it including a statement that stated consideration in an integrated contract can always be challenged as not having been paid. It’s a shame the decision had to wander down this path as it seems to have been primarily the result of a combination of poor drafting (not allocating a portion of the consideration to the injury settlement) and lack of knowledge of the law (failing to make the agreement contingent upon approval of the W.C. Commissioner). Basically the W.C. Commissioner is granted broad discretion to approve or reject such private agreements…. and here ……he could reject it once he concluded no consideration was being allocated to the back injury. [I’ll bet that company is not too happy.]
- SC19172 - Lopez v. Board of Education
Trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entertain plaintiff’s quo warranto attack on the qualifications of a City Board of Educaton Superintendent to hold office. The Superintendent passed a special program adopted for him by the State Bd of Ed to be able to hold office. The exclusive remedy to the complaining taxpayer would have been to go complain to the State Board. Collateral attacks through the courts will not be allowed. We cannot, as a matter of separation of powers, have State court judges second guessing state agencies on whether they properly certified any professional for their position, the decision held. A footnote adds that it matters not for the purposes of requiring exhaustion of administrative remedies that here the taxpayer could have complained to the State agency (via a declaratory ruling request) but have had no remedy to appeal any agency decision to the courts. [Those who read the trial judge’s decision seem to uniformly agree that she treaded into waters where the courts did not belong and so this ruling is not a shocker.]
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.