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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 January 9, 2014

  • AC34716 - Recall Total Information Management, Inc. v. Federal Ins. Co.

Insurance and data loss case!  Plaintiff contracted with IBM to transport data and then subcontracted with a trucking company to actually transport a load of computer tapes and required the subcontractor to procure insurance naming it as an additional insured.  During a shipment a bunch of tapes fell out the back of a van….and were absconded with by a stranger.  The tapes contained personal identifying information for over 500,000 past & present IBM employees.  [Ouch!]  IBM claimed $6mm in damages to address the issue, but the subcontractor’s insurers denied coverage.  The plaintiff proceeded to negotiate on its own with IBM and settled the claim without any lawsuit being filed. The plaintiff then sued the insurers.  The trial court held that the negotiations with IBM was not a “suit” and thus no duty to defend had been triggered …..and the lost data was “intangible property” which was specifically excluded from the property damage coverage.  The court also held that since no employee had yet claimed damage to their credit or reputation, there was no coverage under the “personal injury clause” .   [Note:  you can procure a specific type of coverage to protect against data loss.]  The plaintiff only appealed the duty to defend and personal injury issues, but the Appellate Court agreed with the trial court that there was no coverage.  First the decision reviewed when an insurer loses the ability to contest coverage…… and that is only when it has been found to have violated its duty to defend.  While the insured here had a duty to notify the insurer of both “claims” and “suits”, there was only a duty to defend “suits” or “other dispute resolution mechanism”.  No lawsuit was ever filed here and mere discussions can’t be deemed a dispute resolution procedure.  That later term means something like arbitration.  Thus there was no violation of the duty to defend.  Finally, the decision held that mere loss of the tapes did not amount to “publication” of the confidential information so as to trigger the personal injury coverage.  It would be mere speculation to assume the data had been “accessed” by the thief, and thus “published”.   Finally, IBM’s statutory obligations to notify its employees did not amount to an “invasion of (its employees) privacy” as an alternate trigger for the personal injury coverage. [I can see a potential for further appeal on this due the stakes, but the Appellate Court’s reasoning appears sound.]

Plaintiff sued his home repair contractor, the company’s owner personally, and the owners related company.  The agreement with the contractor had a mandatory mediation followed binding arbitration clause.  The plaintiff later sued GoToGuys and a related company GoToDump and Neundorf personally.  The trial court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to non-compliance with the arbitration clause. Sidestepping the issue of whether dismissal was appropriate as to the non-parties to the agreement, this decision held that the proper remedy should have been to stay the action, not dismiss it.   The decision also notes that while no statute authorizes a trial court to stay an action to force compliance with a mandatory mediation, a trial court certainly has discretion to do so. The matter was remanded to the trial court to revise its decision accordingly which no doubt will be to stay the action.

  • AC35340 - American Tax Funding, LLC v. Basher

Summary judgment was properly granted in this tax lien foreclosure to the plaintiff over the defendant’s objection that his payments were intended to be applied proportionately to each year’s delinquent taxes and thus the plaintiff could not show “no portion” of the taxes had been paid.  The payments had been properly applied per statute against the oldest taxes, not proportionately (CGS 12-144b).

  • AC33398 - Linarte v. Commissioner of Correction
  • AC34983 - State v. Holder
  • AC34562 - Wright v. Commissioner of Correction
  • AC34992 - Baker-Grenier v. Grenier
  • AC33910 - Little v. Commissioner of Correction

 

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.  ©2014 Pullman & Comley, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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