Week of August 18

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.  I may from time to time add commentary, and may even criticize a decision’s reasoning. Such commentary is solely my own personal opinion.. Pullman & Comley’s Appellate Practice Group of which I am a member includes experienced appellate advocates in almost every area of the law.  Should you have a need to consult about a potential appeal,  please email me at emccreery@pullcom.com I hope the reader finds these summaries helpful. – Edward P. McCreery

Posted August 18, 2015

Supreme Court Advance Release Opinions:

Appellate Court Advance Release Opinions:

Plaintiff hired an attorney to bring an action against the Town of Westport, but became dissatisfied with his services and filed a grievance.  Her attorney withdrew his appearance and the plaintiff proceeded self-represented against the Town, but eventually withdrew the lawsuit.  While the lawsuit was pending, however, the law firm hired to defend the Town had hired an associate who had previously worked for Plaintiff’s former attorney.  Without alleging that the associate had any knowledge about the lawsuit while working at the first attorney’s law firm, the plaintiffs sued both her former attorney and the law firm defending the Town of Westport, alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, CUTPA, etc., etc., etc.

The attorneys who had defended the Town successfully had all of the claims stricken or dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and prevailed in an appeal filed by the Plaintiff.  Her former attorney also successfully obtained dismissal of the plaintiff’s lawsuit due to Statute Of Limitations issues and her repeated failure to comply with discovery orders of the Court.  Even after losing the appeal, plaintiff made six attempts to amend her complaint, and tried to default the Town’s law firm for not answering claims that were previously dismissed.  All of Plaintiff’s efforts to revive her lawsuit against the law firms were unsuccessful and she finally filed this appeal. 

The Appellate Court gave short shrift to her claims on appeal, noting she raised numerous claims, including assaulting the judgment of the Trial Court for its orders.  It found the plaintiff’s wholesale attack upon the Trial Court’s rulings to be unpersuasive, including claims that the Trial Court was biased.  Multiple bald assertions that the Trial Court had acted improperly would not be considered without legal analysis and citations to the record.

Under the law of the case doctrine, the Trial Court properly refused to reconsider issues already decided against the Plaintiff by both the Trial Court and in some instances, the Supreme Court.  Claims of discrimination by the Trial Court based upon Plaintiff’s claimed  disabilities were brushed aside, including claims that the plaintiff had trouble in courtrooms with fluorescent lights and had short-term memory problems. 

Plaintiff sued the defendant, who rear-ended her in a minor traffic accident.  The jury found that the defendant was sixty percent responsible for the collision and the plaintiff was forty percent comparatively negligently responsible.  The jury awarded the plaintiff past medical and lost wages and car damage, but declined to award future medical bills and failed to award anything for pain or suffering, i.e., no non-economic damages were awarded.  Plaintiff’s counsel declined the Trial Court’s invitation to send the jury back for further deliberations on whether they intended not to award any non-economic damages for pain and suffering.

But the plaintiff did file a motion for additur and/or to set aside the verdict for that reason.  When those requests were denied, the plaintiff took an appeal.  The Appellate Court noted that a jury’s decision to award economic damages does not automatically trigger a right to an award of non-economic damages, for pain and suffering.  When a jury fails to award damages for pain and suffering, it is then up to the Trial Court to determine on a case-by-case basis whether the verdict was adequate.  Trial Courts should not assume automatically that a jury made a mistake, but, rather, should consider the totality of the case.

Under the facts in this case, it was not unreasonable for a jury to conclude that although the plaintiff had established the defendant was mostly at fault for the accident, she failed to show that she had experienced any significant pain and suffering from her injuries.  There were no obvious injuries from the collision, and the initial reports described the plaintiff as denying suffering from any pain, except her back.  And even for that, she declined pain medication at the hospital, whose medical reports stated that the patient did not appear to have any acute injury.  Medical records detailing the Plaintiff’s post-accident care contained conflicting statements of the Plaintiff’s claims of pain and the more mild observations by the medical providers.  Thus, it was up to a jury to resolve what was the most credible evidence as to whether the plaintiff had suffered pain from the accident.  When the facts show that the jury’s verdict falls somewhere within the uncertain limits of fair and reasonable compensation, the Trial Court should not grant a motion for additur or a motion to set aside the verdict.

The appeal was dismissed.

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.  Copyright 2015 Pullman & Comley, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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