LAWRENCE H. BUCK ET AL.
TOWN OF BERLIN ET AL
October 9, 2015.
to recover damages for, inter alia, the alleged taking by
inverse condemnation of certain of the plaintiffs' real
property, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court
in the judicial district of New Britain, where the complaint
was withdrawn in part and the action was withdrawn as against
the defendant Paul J. Prior et al.; thereafter. the court,
Swienton, J., denied the named defendant's motion for
summary judgment, and the named defendant appealed to this
plaintiff landowners brought this action to recover damages
for the defendant town's alleged inverse condemnation of
certain of their real property, which resulted when the
defendant eliminated the plaintiffs' sole means of
vehicular access to the property by placing gates and
concrete blocks at the ends of the road used to access the
property. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the
ground that there were no genuine issues of material fact
because the plaintiffs' claim was barred by the doctrine
of res judicata. The defendant asserted that the
plaintiffs' claim had been raised or could have been
raised in prior litigation between the parties, and that the
plaintiffs had had an adequate opportunity to litigate their
claim in the prior action. The trial court denied the
defendant's motion for summary judgment on the ground
that there remained genuine issues of material fact as to
whether res judicata barred the plaintiffs' claim and
whether the defendant had provided the plaintiffs with a key
to unlock the gates to access their property in light of the
defendant's promise in the prior action to provide a key
to anyone who could prove ownership of the property. The
defendant thereafter appealed to this court. It claimed,
inter alia, that the trial court improperly denied its motion
for summary judgment because the plaintiffs' claim had
arisen from the same cause of action that was litigated in
the prior action between the parties, and that the plaintiffs
had had an adequate opportunity to litigate their claim in
that action. Held :
trial court improperly denied the defendant's motion for
summary judgment because the plaintiffs' claim was barred
by res judicata: the complaints in the prior action and in
the present action were premised on the same underlying
transaction for the purpose of preclusion, and the claim was
the same in both actions; moreover, although the
plaintiffs' legal theories of recovery in the two
complaints may have differed somewhat, their theory of
recovery in this action could have been advanced in the prior
action, and the plaintiffs had an adequate opportunity to
litigate their claim in that prior action, the trial court in
the present case having improperly determined that the prior
action had been brought pursuant to the statutes (§
§ 13a-49 and 13a-62) pertaining to the discontinuance or
layout of a highway, which would not have allowed the
plaintiffs to seek damages.
There was no issue of material fact as to whether the
defendant had provided the plaintiffs with a key to unlock
the gates to access the property, the plaintiffs not having
alleged in the trial court or in their brief to this court
that the provision of a key, or any other fact, was material
and in dispute.
A. Powell and Cindy A. Miller filed a brief for the appellant
F. Dowley and Melissa S. Harris filed a brief for the
appellees (named plaintiff et al.).
C. J., and Beach and Sheldon, Js. BEACH, J. In this opinion
the other judges concurred.
Conn.App. 283] BEACH, J.
defendant town of Berlin appeals from the decision of the
trial court denying its motion for summary
judgment. On appeal, the defendant claims [163
Conn.App. 284] that the court improperly denied its motion
for summary judgment because (1) the plaintiffs' claim is
barred by res judicata, in that (a) the claim arises from the
same cause of action that was litigated in a prior action,
and (b) the plaintiffs had an adequate opportunity to
litigate the cause of action in that action; and (2) the
court erred by concluding that a genuine issue of material
fact, requiring the denial of the motion for summary
judgment, existed. We agree with the defendant and reverse
the judgment of the trial court.
following facts, as recounted by the trial court, are
relevant to our review of the defendant's claim. "
On August 31, 2012, the plaintiffs, Lawrence Buck and
Christopher Buck, filed the operative seven count complaint
against the defendants, [the] town of Berlin, Paul Prior,
Sally Prior, Kevin Budney, and Lisa Budney. On January 2,
2013, the plaintiffs withdrew counts two through seven of the
complaint and withdrew the action against the defendants Paul
Prior, Sally Prior, Kevin Budney, and Lisa Budney. The
plaintiffs allege the following relevant facts in the
remaining count, count one, against the remaining
defendant, the defendant Berlin. . . .
The plaintiffs accessed their property by utilizing . . .
Lamentation Mountain Pass Road and Middle Road, which
are known as Quincy Trail Road. The defendant authorized the
Lamentation Mountain Estates Subdivision Section XIII, which
approved a road being partially built over part of Quincy
Trail Road and an easement for the defendant . . . . The
later placed gates and concrete blocks at the ends of [163
Conn.App. 285] Quincy Trail Road, eliminating the
plaintiffs' sole means of vehicular access to their
property. The defendant stated in a memorandum from . . .
[the] town manager that 'if someone can prove ownership .
. . of [or] the need for access to this land between the
fences, we will give them a key.' This statement was
reinforced by Mayor Ida Ragazzi at a town council meeting,
held on March 18, 1997, when she stated, 'upon proof of
ownership to property on Lamentation Mountain, the owners
will be given a key to the fences.' . . .
The plaintiffs were also two of the plaintiffs involved in
prior litigation, titled Tighe v. Berlin, [Superior
Court, judicial district of Hartford, Docket No.
CV-97-0575028-S (August 9, 2000), aff'd, 259 Conn. 83,
788 A.2d 40 (2002)] which was initiated on October 28, 1997.
The four count complaint was brought by numerous individuals
who owned land affected by the project, but the plaintiffs
were only part of [the] third and fourth counts. Put simply,
the plaintiffs alleged in the third count of that complaint
that the subdivision approval granted by the defendant [to
the buyers] resulted in the installation of a locked gate and
cement blocks on the road the plaintiffs use to access their
properties, denying the plaintiffs access to their
properties. Similarly, the plaintiffs alleged in the fourth
count of that complaint that the defendant . . . had not
formally abandoned the road and that the placement of the
fences and cement blocks denied the plaintiffs access to
their properties. . . .
On May 19, 2014, the defendant filed a motion for summary
judgment on the ground that 'there are no genuine issues
of material fact for a jury to decide because [the]
plaintiffs' inverse condemnation claim is barred by res
judicata, because the instant claims were raised or could
have been raised in previous litigation between these
parties.' . . . In response, on June 19, 2014, pursuant
to Practice Book § 17-45, the plaintiffs [163 Conn.App.
286] filed a memorandum of law in opposition . . . . The
defendant subsequently filed a reply on July 9, 2014 . . . .
The matter was heard at the short calendar on July 14,
2014." (Footnotes altered.)
court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment
because " there remain[ed] a genuine issue of material
fact as to whether the claim is barred by res judicata."
The court implicitly held that the prior action had been
brought pursuant to General Statutes § 13a-49 and, thus,
a subsequent claim for money damages was not necessarily
barred. The defendant disagreed, and this appeal followed.
begin by setting forth our standard of review. "
Practice Book § 17-49 provides that summary judgment
shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and
any other proof submitted show that there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. In deciding a motion for
summary judgment, the trial court must view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. . . . The
party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing
the absence of any genuine issue of material fact and that
the party is, therefore, entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. . . . On appeal, we must determine whether the legal
conclusions reached by the trial court are legally and
logically correct and whether they find support in the facts
set out in the memorandum of decision of the trial court. . .
. Our review of the trial court's decision to deny the
defendant's motion for summary judgment is plenary.
(Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.)
Savvidis v. Norwalk, 129 Conn.App. 406, 409-10,
21 A.3d 842, cert. denied, 302 Conn. 913, 27 A.3d 372 (2011).
[T]he applicability of res judicata . . . presents a question
of law over which we employ plenary review. [163 Conn.App.
287] . . . The principles that govern res judicata are
described in Restatement (Second) of Judgments . . . . The
basic rule is that of § 18, which [provides] in relevant
part: When a valid and final personal judgment is rendered in
favor of the plaintiff . . . [t]he plaintiff cannot
thereafter maintain an action on the original claim or any
part thereof, although he may be able to maintain an action
upon the judgment. . . . As comment (a) to § 18
explains, [w]hen the plaintiff recovers a valid and final
personal judgment, his original claim is extinguished and
rights upon the judgment are substituted for it. The
plaintiff's original claim is said to be merged in the
judgment. Our . . . case law has uniformly approved and
applied the principle of claim preclusion or merger."
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 410.
consider the policies underlying res judicata in our
determination of whether to apply the doctrine in a
particular case. " These [underlying] purposes are
generally identified as being (1) to promote judicial economy
by minimizing repetitive litigation; (2) to prevent
inconsistent judgments which undermine the integrity of the
judicial system; and (3) to provide repose by preventing a
person from being harassed by vexatious litigation."
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) Isaac v. Truck
Service, Inc., 253 Conn. 416, 422, 752 A.2d 509 (2000).
" [W]e have recognized that the application of res
judicata can yield harsh results . . . and, as a result, have
stated that the doctrine should be flexible and must give way
when [its] mechanical application would frustrate other
social policies based on values equally or more important
than the convenience afforded by finality in legal
controversies." (Internal quotation marks omitted.)
Savvidis v. Norwalk, supra, 129 Conn.App. 412.
court concluded that there was a genuine issue of fact as to
whether the case was barred by res judicata [163 Conn.App.
288] because the plaintiffs never were provided a key with
which to unlock the gate and access their land. The defendant
contends that the court " mistakenly found a factual
dispute where there is none." Accordingly, we shall
address the defendant's two res judicata arguments before
turning to the ...