Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Connecticut Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the trial court ordering strict foreclosure, holding that the Appellate Court erred in concluding that an initial entry into a record of debt was not admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule when that entry was provided by a third party in the course of the sale of the debt. Specifically, the Court held that the Appellate Court (1) did not err in concluding that Jenzack Partners, LLC (Jenzack) had standing to foreclose a mortgage executed in support of a personal guarantee of a promissory note given by a third party even though the guarantee was not explicitly assigned to the foreclosing party; and (2) erred in determining that the business records exception did not apply to Jenzack's calculation of the debt owed on the promissory note where the initial entry into the record of the debt was provided by a third party. View "Jenzack Partners, LLC v. Stoneridge Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court with respect to an award of damages, holding that Conn. Gen. Stat. 51-183c applies when the Supreme Court reverses the trial court's judgment as to damages only and remands the case to the trial court to take new evidence and recalculate damages. Plaintiff brought this action to enjoin Defendant from violating certain conservation restrictions on certain of Defendant's real property. The judge trial referee rendered judgment for Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case to the superior court with direction to recalculate the award of attorney's fees and damages. The same judge trial referee denied Defendant's motion to disqualify and issued certain orders from which Defendant appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment as to damages, holding that section 51-183c, which precludes a judge who tried a case without a jury from trying the case again after the reviewing court reverses the judgment, applied in this case, and the judge trial referee was required to disqualify himself on remand after the first appeal. View "Lyme Land Conservation Trust, Inc. v. Platner" on Justia Law

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In this complaint alleging that a residential loan servicer engaged in systematic misrepresentations and delays over several years of post default loan modification negotiations with mortgagors the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court insofar as it struck Plaintiff's negligence claim but reversed the judgment insofar as the court struck Plaintiffs' claim alleging a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 24-110a et seq., holding the alleged facts could support a claim under CUTPA but would not support a claim of negligence. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant committed unfair or deceptive acts in the conduct of trade or commerce by failing to exercise reasonable diligence in reviewing and processing Plaintiffs' loan modification applications, causing undue delay, and misrepresenting many aspects of the loan modification. Defendant moved to strike both the CUTPA and negligence counts. The trial court granted the motion to strike. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs alleged a CUTPA violation sufficient to survive a motion to strike; and (2) Defendant did not owe a common-law duty of care to Plaintiffs, and therefore, the trial court properly struck Plaintiffs' common-law negligence count. View "Cenatiempo v. Bank of America, N.A." on Justia Law

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In this writ of error the Supreme Court held that state courts lack jurisdiction to extend the automatic stay provision of the federal bankruptcy code, 11 U.S.C. 362(a)(1), to motions proceedings against nondebtor plaintiffs in foreclosure actions and overruled Equity One, Inc. v. Shivers, 93 A.3d 1167 (Conn. 2014), on that ground. U.S. Bank National Association brought a foreclosure action against Jacquelyn Crawford. The trial court ordered a foreclosure by sale and appointed Douglas Evans as the committee for sale. Before the sale could be completed Crawford declared bankruptcy and the foreclosure action was stayed. Evans then filed a motion seeking to recover from the bank fees and expenses he incurred in preparing for the sale. Relying exclusively on Shivers, which ruled that courts have authority to extend the application for the automatic stay to nondebtors in unusual circumstances, the trial court concluded that Evans's motion for fees and expenses was stayed. Evans then filed this writ of error. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding (1) state courts do not have jurisdiction to change the status quo by modifying the reach of the automatic stay provision; and (2) Shivers must be overruled. View "U.S. Bank National Ass'n v. Crawford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's appeal from a decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Stamford (zoning board) granting the application of Paul Breunich for variances to reconstruct a legally nonconforming accessory structure on his property after it was damaged by a hurricane, holding that the trial court did not err in determining that the zoning board property granted Breunich's application for variances from the regulations. Plaintiff was the executor of the estate of Gerda Mayer Wittmann, who owned property adjacent to Breunich's property. After the trial court dismissed Plaintiff's appeal, Plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court, renewing his claims that the zoning board improperly granted the variances. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the building retained its status as a legally nonconforming accessory structure, and therefore, Breunich was not barred by the Stamford Zoning Regulations from rebuilding the structure; and (2) the zoning board properly granted the variances on the ground that the enforcement of the regulations would create a hardship. View "Mayer-Wittmann v. Zoning Board of Appeals" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's judgment of strict foreclosure in favor of Plaintiff's mortgagee, U.S. Bank National Association, holding that the Appellate Court erred in striking Defendant's special defenses and counterclaims. After Plaintiff commenced this foreclosure action Defendant filed an answer special defenses, and counterclaims. The special defenses sounded in equitable estoppel and unclean hands and the counterclaims sounded in negligence and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), Conn. Gen. Stat. 42-110a et seq. The trial court granted Plaintiff's motion to strike all of the special defenses and counterclaims on the grounds that the alleged misconduct did not relate to the making, validity, or enforcement of the note or mortgage. The Appellate Court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a mortgagee's misconduct that hinders a mortgagor's efforts to cure a default and adds to the mortgagor's debt while the mortgagor is making good faith efforts is a proper basis for special defenses or counterclaims in that action. View "U.S. Bank National Ass'n v. Blowers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in this action seeking, inter alia, to enforce a foreign judgment, holding that a plaintiff who is neither a party to a mortgage nor an intended beneficiary of the mortgage has no standing to challenge the enforceability of that mortgage under the Connecticut Limited Liability Company Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 34-130. The trial court entered judgment in part for Plaintiff as against the named defendant and entered judgment for defendant Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (M&T Bank) and set aside certain fraudulent transfers and imposed constructive trusts on certain properties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not have standing to challenge the M&T Bank mortgage; (2) specified transfers between an owner of property and the limited liability companies of which he is either an officer or equity holder constitute fraudulent transfers under the Connecticut Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-552e(a)(1) and (2) and 52-552f; and (3) the doctrine of reverse piercing of the corporate veil is a viable remedy in Connecticut, and the trial court properly applied it to the facts of this case. View "McKay v. Longman" on Justia Law

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In this foreclosure action, the Supreme Court held that Defendants John Sanzo and Maria Sanzo were not entitled to the homestead exemption, which is available when a creditor forecloses on a judgment lien but not on a consensual lien. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-352(b). Plaintiff, Rockstone Capital, LLC held judgment liens against Defendants. The parties agreed to a consensual lien in the form of a mortgage to secure the debt. Defendants defaulted on the mortgage payments, and Plaintiff sought to foreclose on the mortgage. Defendants invoked the homestead exemption. The trial court decided that the exemption should apply and rendered judgment for Plaintiff on the judgment liens, subject to the homestead exemption. The Appellate Court reversed, holding that the homestead exemption did not apply to a consensual lien such as a mortgage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Appellate Court properly found that the appeal was taken from a final judgment and the mortgage was a consensual lien. View "Rockstone Capital, LLC v. Sanzo" on Justia Law

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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's grant of Defendants' motion for summary judgment, holding that Spitzer v. Waterbury, 154 A. 157 (Conn. 1931), must be overruled in light of modern case law governing the distinction between ministerial and discretionary duties. Plaintiffs brought this action against Defendants, the borough of Naugatuck (town) and several town officials, claiming that Defendants' negligence in maintaining and repairing the town's storm drains and drainage pipes caused the repeated flooding of Plaintiffs' residence. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Appellate Court affirmed, concluding that the negligence claims was barred because, under recent cases clarifying Spitzer, Defendants were acting pursuant to a discretionary function subject to governmental immunity rather than a ministerial function. Plaintiffs appealed, asserting that the Appellate Court improperly failed to follow Spitzer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Spitzer must be overruled in light of more modern case law and statutes governing the distinction between ministerial and discretionary duties; and (2) under more modern cases, the town's duty to maintain and repair its drainage system was discretionary and, therefore, subject to governmental immunity. View "Northrup v. Witkowski" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Defendants and upholding the legality of assessments of Plaintiffs' properties following a revaluation - which was a mass appraisal - conducted by the Town of Groton as a direct equalization measure in order to ensure that Plaintiffs' neighborhood was not undertaxed relative to others in the municipality, holding that the trial court properly determined that Plaintiffs' assessments were not manifestly excessive. Plaintiffs argued that Defendants violated Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-62 and numerous regulations promulgated by the state Office of Policy and Management when they applied a flat, undifferentiated adjustment factor that increased the assessed value of all properties in Groton Long Point by a certain percentage without individualized consideration of the unique characteristics of each property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants validly incorporated ratio studies and direct equalization via adjustment factors to neighborhood strata into the revaluation in order to ensure that Groton Long Point bore its fair share of the Town's municipal tax burden relative to the Town's other neighborhoods. View "Tuohy v. Town of Groton" on Justia Law