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December 2, 2013

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 December 2, 2013

  • SC19081 - Austin-Cesares v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America

Mortgage holder sought to intervene into the breach of contract action brought by homeowner against their insurer over a fire loss dispute on the grounds that it was a named additional insured.  Coverage had been denied on the grounds the homeowner misrepresented that the insured premises were a principal residence.  The trial court denied the request on the grounds that the insurance policy required any lawsuits against it to be filed within one year of the loss (a contractual statute of limitations).  The Supreme Court reversed holding that the motion to intervene did not constitute a new lawsuit, but rather related back to the filing of the initial lawsuit by the homeowner.  The Court noted it was using an abuse of discretion standard but was leaving for another day when reviewing a trial court’s decision on the timeliness of a motion whether the standard of review should not be plenary.

Here the trial court did not exercise any discretion on whether the mortgagee’s claims related back, but simply found them untimely.  Analogizing to FRCP 15(c), the decision held as a matter of first impression that the relation back doctrine can apply to a motion to intervene, and that here, the intervener’s complaint related back “as a matter of law.”  The proposed complaint did not state any new causes of action not already set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint.  The matter was still remanded however so that the trial court could determine whether intervention as of right would cause any delay in the proceedings, or prejudice to the defendant, as these issues were never considered.  Secondly if the trial court found intervention as of right was not appropriate, it had to move on to look at the permissive intervention issues.  [Editor’s note: Heretofore in CT, the relation back doctrine has been principally used by a plaintiff seeking to amend their complaint to add new claims passed the statute of limitations.  It can now be used by a party seeking to join an existing lawsuit as an additional plaintiff provided they are not asserting new claims.]

 

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.

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