Mar 31 2020

Connecticut Insurance Law - 3/31/2020

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Civil Procedure – Post-Judgment Discovery
Authored by: Christina Canales

Krausman v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 195 Conn. App. 682 (2020).  The plaintiff filed a complaint against her automobile insurer alleging an uninsured motorist claim as well as claims under the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (“CUIPA”) and Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”).  During the litigation, the trial court granted the defendant’s a motion to bifurcate the uninsured motorist claim from the CUIPA and CUTPA claims.  After obtaining a judgment on her uninsured motorist claim, the plaintiff sought to serve post-judgment interrogatories on the defendant, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 52-351b.  When the defendant failed to respond to the interrogatories within the thirty day period provided by the statute, the plaintiff filed a motion for order of compliance.  The defendant objected to the motion, arguing that it was not required to respond to the interrogatories because the court had not yet disposed of the remaining two counts of the complaint and the plaintiff must wait until a final judgment was rendered in the case before seeking post-judgment discovery pursuant to § 52-351b.  The trial court sustained the defendant’s objection and plaintiff appealed.  In affirming the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Court held that the trial court’s ruling was an interlocutory discovery order in an ongoing civil action that is not immediately appealable because it neither terminated a separate and distinct proceeding nor deprived the plaintiff of a presently held statutory or constitutional right that would be irretrievably lost in the absence of immediate appellate review.
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Unfair Trade Practices – Billing for Legal Services 
Authored by: Eva M. Kolstad 
Carey & Associates, P.C. v. Eric Jackel, Superior Court of Connecticut, judicial district of Fairfield at Bridgeport, 2020 WL 1028847 (Jan. 30, 2020, Jacobs, J.).  The trial court granted a law firm plaintiff’s motion to strike a counterclaim filed by the defendant who was its former client.  The law firm initiated the lawsuit, alleging claims of breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and defamation.  The former client filed counterclaims alleging breach of contract and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”).  The counterclaims were based on allegations that the law firm overbilled the client, primarily due to an 80 minute phone call between the former client and two attorneys of the law firm. The Court granted the law firm’s motion to strike both counterclaims, finding that “the decision by the plaintiff to have two attorneys participate in the phone call was strategic” and, therefore, the bill was not a violation of the contract or CUTPA.
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Expert Testimony – Supervision of Children
Authored by: Shari N. Pearlman
Osborn v. City of Waterbury, et al., 333 Conn. 816 (2019).  The plaintiff, a mother who filed the civil action on behalf of her minor child, alleging negligence in supervising and protecting the minor against the defendants, City of Waterbury and the Waterbury Board of Education.  The minor had sustained injuries during an altercation with other students while at a school recess.  The trial court entered judgment for the plaintiff at trial.  The defendants appealed and the Appellate Court held that expert testimony was necessary to establish the standard of care in the school’s supervision of children on the playground at the school.  The Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court and remanded the case to the trial court, holding that expert testimony was not required to establish whether the supervision of children on a school playground was adequate.  The Supreme Court reasoned that the task of supervising children is one that laypeople routinely perform, and therefore the determination of adequate supervision of children is common knowledge, based on everyday life.  The fact that the incident occurred on a playground during school hours, rather than on the same playground after school hours, did not change the fact finder's ability to determine what constitutes adequate supervision. 
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Motor Vehicle Liability – Statutory Interpretation
Authored by: Tiffany L. Sabato
Rutter v. Janis, et al., Beale v. Martins, et al., and Ferreira v. Martins, et al., 334 Conn. 722 (2020).  At the time of a June 8, 2013 the motor vehicle accident, the defendants’ vehicle was equipped with temporary, dealer-provided license plates while the vehicle registration was pending.  Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 14-60(a)(3), a dealer is not liable for damages caused by an insured operator of the motor vehicle within thirty days after issuance of dealer-provided license plates.  The defendant dealer moved for summary judgment on the basis that the temporary license plates had been issued on May 9, 2013.  The plaintiffs opposed summary judgment on the basis that the accident occurred the 31st day after the plates were issued, such that the statute did not apply.  The Supreme Court held that, when considering a lapse of time pursuant to a statute, a day is a fixed 24-hour period of time from midnight to midnight, and partial days are not intended to count toward statutory time periods.  Therefore, the day after the issuance of the dealer plates began the applicable thirty-day time period, such that the accident occurred on the 30th day, bringing it within the purview of § 14-60(a)(3) and warranting summary judgment in favor of the dealer. 
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Unfair Trade Practices – Statements of Opinion
Authored by: Michael S. Tripicco
NetScout Sys., Inc. v. Gartner, Inc., 334 Conn. 396 (2020).  The Connecticut Supreme Court held that statements of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment cannot form the basis of a Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”) claim.  The plaintiff, an information technology vendor, sued a research firm for an alleged CUTPA violation stemming from the firm’s publication of a research report that was unfavorable to the plaintiff.  The research report was presented as objective, and included a graphical ranking that placed the plaintiff in the “challengers” category.  This meant that – in the firm’s view – the plaintiff was struggling to meet the rising technical demands and expectations of the marketplace.  The plaintiff alleged that the firm’s claim of objectivity was false, and that rankings were nothing more than a deceptive “pay to play” scheme carried out by the firm.  The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the First Amendment barred the CUTPA claim.  The Supreme Court, in affirming the trial court’s entry of summary judgment for the defendant, observed that the plaintiff failed to present evidence sufficient to support its “pay-to-play” allegation.  In the absence of such evidence, the Supreme Court reasoned that the firm’s ranking of the plaintiff was an opinion protected by the First Amendment, and that the firm’s claim of objectivity did not render the opinion actionable under CUTPA. 
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