Here is a preview of the six cases being heard in the second week of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s November Term:
Monday, November 18, 2019
The Court will hear argument in two cases. In the first, Brass City Local, CACP v. City of Waterbury, S.C. 20337, the Court will decide whether the Superior Court has jurisdiction over an application to confirm an interest arbitration award rendered pursuant to the Municipal Employee Relations Act (MERA), General Statutes § 7-467 et seq. MERA imposes mandatory binding arbitration to determine the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement whenever a municipality and the union representing its employees reach an impasse in their negotiations. After the state board of mediation and arbitration issued an award pursuant to MERA, the plaintiff filed an application to confirm the award pursuant to General Statutes § 52-408 et seq., which authorizes limited judicial review over an award issued pursuant to an agreement to arbitrate. The Court will decide whether the trial court properly concluded that it lacked jurisdiction because the award was not issued pursuant to a written agreement to arbitrate, and because MERA does not specifically authorize judicial review of an award pursuant to an application to confirm.
The second case is Ruiz v. Commissioner of Correction, S.C. 20233, in which the Court will address whether, pursuant to Blumberg Associates Worldwide, Inc. v. Brown and Brown of Connecticut, Inc., 311 Conn. 123 (2014), the Appellate Court is required to afford the parties the opportunity to file supplemental briefs before it may affirm the judgment of the trial on an alternative ground that was not raised by the parties. The petitioner, who previously pled guilty to home invasion, brought a habeas petition claiming that his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to file a motion to dismiss the home invasion charge. The habeas court denied the petition on the merits, but the Appellate Court affirmed on the alternative ground that the petitioner waived his right to pursue that claim by pleading guilty, even though neither party ever raised that issue. The Court will address whether the Appellate Court erred by failing to order supplemental briefing before affirming on an alternative ground that was not raised by the parties.
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
The Court will hear argument in one case, Du Pont De Nemours v. Chemtura Corporation, S.C. 20329, in which it will address whether strict compliance with a contractual notice provision is required under New York law. The plaintiff purchased the defendant’s fluorine chemical facility pursuant to an asset purchase agreement, which required the defendant to indemnify the plaintiff in the event that the defendant breached any of the contractual representations and warranties. The agreement, which provided that New York law would govern, also required the plaintiff to provide notice of any claim to the defendant’s general counsel and outside counsel within four years of the closing. Shortly after the closing, the plaintiff sought indemnification for various claimed deficiencies at the facility, and the parties engaged in discussions about those claims over the next few years. The plaintiff brought this action six years after the closing, and the trial court found against the plaintiff on the basis that it failed to comply with the contractual notice provision because it did not notify the appropriate persons under the contract. The Court will address whether New York law requires strict compliance with the notice provision of a commercial contract in order to recover for a breach of contract claim. (Disclaimer: Murtha Cullina LLP is counsel for the plaintiff in this case.)
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
In the first case, State v. Ruiz-Pacheco, S.C. 20206, the Court will address whether the defendant’s separate convictions for assault as a principal and an accessory arising from a joint attack on a single victim violated double jeopardy. The defendant was convicted of two counts of first-degree assault as a principal and two counts of first-degree assault as an accessory, arising from an incident in which the defendant and his brother both stabbed two victims during a brawl outside a nightclub. The Appellate Court held that the defendant’s convictions did not violate double jeopardy because the separate convictions arose from separate criminal acts, namely, the separate stabbings of the victims by the defendant and his brother. The Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly affirmed the defendant’s convictions.
In the second case, Garcia v. Cohen, S.C. 20285, the Court will address the applicability of the general verdict rule where the trial court denies the plaintiff’s request to submit interrogatories to the jury. The plaintiff brought this action against the defendant, claiming that she was injured as a result of the defendant’s negligence in failing to keep the stairs to her apartment building in a safe condition. During trial, the defendant testified that he hired several people who helped him maintain the premises. The plaintiff filed a request to charge the jury that the defendant had a nondelegable duty to maintain the premises, along with proposed interrogatories regarding what caused the defendant’s injuries, both of which the court denied. After the jury returned a general verdict for the defendant, the plaintiff appealed, claiming that the trial court erred in rejecting her proposed charge and interrogatories. The Appellate Court held that the general verdict rule precluded review of the plaintiff’s claim because, although the plaintiff requested the interrogatories, she failed to object when the trial court refused to submit them to the jury. The Court will decide whether the Appellate Court properly concluded that the plaintiff’s claim was not reviewable.
Thursday, November 21, 2019
The November term closes with argument in Strano v. Azzinaro, S.C. 20309, in which the Court will grapple with the pleading requirements necessary to satisfy the “extreme and outrageous” conduct standard in a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The minor plaintiff, who has been diagnosed with autism, brought this action after he was expelled from his Boy Scout troop. After the plaintiff had been bullied by fellow troop members, the plaintiff’s father asked the defendant troop leader to intervene. When the defendant failed to do so, the plaintiff’s father started attending troop meetings to monitor how the plaintiff was being treated. The defendant then expelled the plaintiff for the stated reason that his father’s presence at the meetings disrupted the group’s functioning. The trial court struck the plaintiff’s complaint on the basis that the alleged conduct was not “extreme and outrageous” as required to sustain a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Court will decide whether the Appellate Court erred in affirming the trial court’s decision to strike the plaintiff’s complaint.