Appellate Court Notes - Week of March 19

by Pullman & Comley, LLC
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Welcome to our Supreme and Appellate Court summaries. Here, 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 March 19, 2014

  • AC34425 - Martin V. v. Commissioner of Correction

Pro se husband sued his ex-wife’s lawyers claiming violation of the RPC and intentional infliction of emotional distress for failure to disclose the attorney’s past representation of the judge who handled certain post-dissolution proceedings.  These allegations were properly dismissed under the absolute immunity afforded to attorneys during the judicial process.  Also, the RPC does not create a cause of action so those claims were properly stricken.  Certain allegations that conduct was pursued for an improper purpose came closer to a vexatious litigation / abuse of process type of claim which does not enjoy absolute immunity, but the allegations were not pled with enough specificity to establish that the conduct was outside the scope of normal judicial proceedings, and thus were also properly stricken.  The trial court also struck a substitute complaint that attempted to reassert allegations already ordered removed….and entered a disciplinary judgment for the defendants in the case,  Allowing a party to persistently refile already disallowed pleadings does not advance the interests of justice.  The decision also held: (1) new causes of action may not be asserted in a substitute complaint after the granting of a motion to strike without seeking permission to amend; and (2) that the court could raise the issue of subject matter jurisdiction over the immunity issue without the need for the defendants to even file a motion to dismiss (see footnote).

  • AC34777 - Manka v. Walt Disney Co.

Newscaster on way to work at ESPN collided with and injured plaintiff.  The newscaster worked for a company that had contracted with ESPN for the driver to act as a commentator on that network.  Plaintiff sued the driver, but also tried to sue Walt Disney claiming the contract with ESPN used the terms, and ESPN’s affiliates,  and since Walt Disney was somehow “affiliated” with ESPN, they should be liable too.  [I think this is a case of 1 + 1 must = 4 - right?] The trial court properly granted Walt Disney’s motion to dismiss.  There was no evidence it had anything to do with the ESPN contract for the commentator and while Walt Disney appeared distantly “linked” with ESPN through a series of intermediary companies, that is not enough to make them liable for the accident caused by a driver who worked for an ESPN contractor .  [Oh good grief.  They should get their attorney fees paid for this one.]  

  • AC35372- Crespo v. Commissioner of Correction
  • AC35838 - Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Torres

Pro se borrower moved to dismiss mortgage foreclosure challenging plaintiff’s standing.  The trial court granted the motion when the plaintiff’s attorney showed up in court with the original note (endorsed in blank on the back), and mortgage, but no formal assignment of the mortgage to the plaintiff.  The trial court said that was not good enough and suggested the plaintiff should have produced (testimonial) evidence as to how the plaintiff came to be the holder of the note.  The Appellate Court reversed holding the complaint alleged a proper sequence of document ownership and when considering a motion to dismiss for lack of standing the court is supposed to take as true the allegations of that complaint.  Here the plaintiff alleged the note had been assigned to it.   Further the plaintiff clearly established it was the holder of the original note and a holder may sue even without a formal assignment because there is a rebuttable presumption of ownership with possession.  In any event, it did not matter that the note was endorsed in blank.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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