Week of September 9
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 September 9, 2014
- AC35328 - Sola v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Trial court incorrectly refused to charge the jury that Walmart store had a non-delegable duty to maintain its floors in a safe condition for its patrons and could not defend a case by pointing to the negligence of its subcontractor who was working on the floor area at the time of the patron’s injury. Jury verdict for the defendant was set aside and a new trial ordered.
- AC35890 - Sonson v. United Services Automobile Assn.
The Court started off this decision with a stingy rebuke of the insurance industry with the comment that standardized insurance contracts are the epitome of contracts of adhesion entered into without any negotiation and that is why policyholders are sometimes given slack for not strictly complying with their terms. Nonetheless they ruled in favor of the insurer. The policyholder acquired a non-street legal racing Ferrari f450 to be registered in Delaware and called his carrier to add it to his regular Virginia homeowner / auto policy where he claimed it would be garaged. Despite being told their policy does not cover race cars or damages caused from racing, he convinced the representative to add the exotic car to his policy. Less than a year later the car was crashed during a race in California, never having been registered and never having set rubber down in Delaware. The insurer rescinded the policy due to mis-representations. The policy holder sued and the insurer raised two defenses, rescission and exclusion from coverage. The decision upheld the judgment for the insurer finding it only had to look to the exclusion. It matters not that the exclusion was not mentioned as a reason for the denial of coverage. An insurer may raise a defense to coverage in subsequent litigation even if it was not listed as an initial reason to deny coverage. The Court also rejected the argument of the policy holder that his actions did not amount to “racing” when he was driving around a race track at 90 mph in a fire suit and helmet accompanied by a driving coach. Ha ha.
[An F450 is depicted above as only Moe might know what one looks like.]
- AC35744 - Rozbicki v. Gisselbrecht
A trial court has continuing jurisdiction after the normal four month post-judgment time frame to enforce its orders. Here the plaintiff-attorney was ordered to pay the $700 cost of the defendant for videotaping a deposition to prove the plaintiff was using the deposition to harass the witness. When he failed to pay the fee, the defendant moved to have him held in contempt of court, 11 months after a judgment and appeal in the defendant’s favor. This decision held that the trial court still had jurisdiction to hold the plaintiff in contempt of court as the imposition of the cost was akin to imposing sanctions …..as opposed to a more traditional discovery order that would have merged into the judgment and been subject to the four month rule.
The majority awkwardly concluded that a combination of prior precedent, and a less-than-clear statutory amendment designed to overrule that case law, required them to answer a question certified from the district court, that yes indeed, pawnbroker repurchase agreements are governed by the 12% interest rate usury cap set forth in CGS 37-4, ….even though….. that statute tries to exempt pawnbrokers. A repurchase agreement is where the customer drops off an item stating they are selling it to the pawnbroker for a fixed dollar amount but they may repurchase it for the same price…less 20% of the original price each month they don’t buy it back. The pawnbroker argued that such transactions aren’t regulated at all. The dissent would have sided with the pawnbroker that the end result of the legislative amendment was to leave the field unregulated.
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.