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Taylor v. Riedel

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Waterbury, Waterbury

October 16, 2015

David Taylor
v.
Jeffrey Riedel

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Joseph H. Pellegrino, Judge Trial Referee.

I

Background

The plaintiff, David Taylor, brings this action to recover monies and property he claims are due to him from the defendant, Jeffrey Riedel, after their intimate relationship and business relationship ended after about fifteen years.

The parties met on or about 1996. They began dating and after a brief courtship the plaintiff moved into the home of the defendant on or about 1997. At the time the parties met, the plaintiff was employed at Taunton Press as an art director and was living in his father's home. The defendant was a self-employed interior designer and was engaged in his own interior design business. The defendant was the owner of the property located at 1745 South Britain Road in Southbury, Connecticut, which he acquired in 1988. This was the home the plaintiff moved to at the time they began to share their life together. From this time forward, and during their fifteen-year relationship, the parties shared an intimate and sexual life together and acted as a married couple. The plaintiff continued to work at Taunton Press for about two years into the relationship and then he left that position to begin work with the defendant in the interior design business. At no time during this relationship did the parties marry nor did the defendant ever give the plaintiff an interest in the real property.

The court finds the following facts based on the very credible testimony of the plaintiff.[1] The plaintiff was asked by the defendant in 1999, two years into their relationship, to join his interior design business as a full partner. The plaintiff agreed and quit his job at Taunton Press and became involved in the interior design business. The business organizationally was in very bad shape. The plaintiff was able to organize the billing and other business functions with the help of computer devices that he introduced and oversaw. In addition, the plaintiff was able to utilize his graphic art talent to integrate with the interior design talents of the defendant.

At that time when the plaintiff began working at the business, the defendant was drinking heavily and the plaintiff urged the defendant to seek professional help. The defendant subsequently agreed to enter a rehab facility. After his discharge from the facility, the defendant admitted that he never again was alcohol dependent. In any event, through the plaintiff's effort, the business flourished. The defendant agreed that the plaintiff would be a partner in the Riedel Interior design business and that the profits would be distributed as follows: one-third to the plaintiff, one-third to the defendant, and the other one-third to be shared by both the plaintiff and the defendant and used for things that they both agreed to, including " fun" things and priorities that they had agreed upon. The three priorities were to pay off the mortgage on the home, which at that time had a balance of $159, 000.00, to travel extensively, and to improve the home. Within two years from the date the plaintiff came aboard the couple accomplished their first objective in paying off the mortgage in full. After the mortgage was paid in full, and because the business was successful financially, which the court finds was attributable in a significant way to the efforts of the plaintiff, the parties were able to realize their second goal to travel extensively. During their relationship they took between 20 to 25 cruises. They traveled in the Baltic region, Europe, Africa, and France. They also took a world cruise. In addition to their travel, the parties enjoyed buying objects for the home including antiques. The funds for their travel, the mortgage payoff, and other purchases and " fun" things came from their joint earnings, that is the third of earnings from the business that they considered as their joint property. Unfortunately, all the monies that came into the business were in bank accounts controlled by the defendant and the plaintiff was not a signatory to these accounts. Similarly, all monies used to pay for the mortgage and travel, and other purchases came from one of the several checking accounts that the plaintiff was not a signatory. The parties also added to the home by installing a pool and a Cabana during the time of their relationship. During the relationship the plaintiff received a $75, 000 inheritance from his father, which he used to establish a company--Port of Call--to sell jewelry and other items. The defendant was initially a 50% owner of Port of Call but later the parties changed the corporate structure of the company and the defendant relinquished any ownership of the company. Port of Call then was used by the parties as a tax shelter. After 15 years of their relationship, the defendant met a man online (Colin) who lived in Australia and they began a Facebook relationship. The defendant spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone with Colin and conducted an electronic romance with him and then informed the plaintiff that he was in love with Colin. The defendant admitted at trial that he never met Colin face to face. The plaintiff realized his relationship with the defendant was over and sometime in 2010 he left the home with clothes and possessions that would fit into his car and went to New Mexico where he decided to enroll in school and continue his life without his partner who had rejected him.

The plaintiff now seeks to recover the personal property that was purchased with their joint funds, that was left at the defendant's house, a return of one-half of the monies he paid towards the payment of the balance of the mortgage on the South Britain Road property, one-half of the monies used to pay for the renovations to the South Britain Road property, and the initial investment in the Port of Call corporation. The court will address the claims for damages in due course.

II

Discussion

The plaintiff, in pursuit of his claim to the property and monies he wishes to recover, points to Boland v. Catalano, 202 Conn. 333, 521 A.2d 142 (1987), in support of his claims. Although that case was between an unmarried man and woman whose relationship had ended, it does give support to the plaintiff's claims. In that case, the court agreed that if parties agree implicitly by their conduct and or words to share their earnings and the fruits of their joint labor, a legal obligation is created. The agreement between the parties in this action would be considered an express one as the plaintiff has testified, that they agreed to utilize one-third of their joint earnings to pay for things that would be jointly owned, and also an implied promise to share their earnings and the fruits of their joint labor. The court finds that the parties agreed, as was the credible testimony of the plaintiff, to share their earnings and that the actions of the parties were consistent with an implied agreement that they intended to share whatever they acquired.

Personal Property

The plaintiff submitted Exhibit 1 in which he listed the items of personal property that the parties purchased with joint funds and the fair market value or cost of each item. These items are still at the home of the defendant and he seeks one-half of the total value of the items. At the time of trial, the defendant claimed that at least four of the items were either returned to the plaintiff or put in a storage bin for the plaintiff and that the parties would comment in their briefs on the items claimed to be returned. No such items were identified in the briefs. The court will find that the plaintiff is the one-half owner of the items listed on Exhibit 1 and the court will accept the valuation of such items as the plaintiff has stated. The court has relied on the testimony of the plaintiff as to the value and cost of the items listed on Exhibit 1. Rasey v. Berger, 92 Conn.App. 218, 220, 883 A.2d 1268 (2005); Saporiti v. Austin A. Chambers Co., 134 Conn. 476, 478-79, 58 A.2d 387 (1948). The court accepts the credible testimony of the plaintiff that all of these items were purchased by the plaintiff and defendant with funds generated by their business which the parties had agreed would be their joint funds. The total value of the items listed on Exhibit 1 is $115, 050.00. The court finds that one-half of the value of these items should be returned to the plaintiff ...


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