GIUSEPPE CAPASSO ET AL.
IAN CHRISTMANN ET AL
October 20, 2015.
to recover damages for, inter alia, defamation, and for other
relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial
district of New Haven, where the court, Blue, J., granted the
defendants' motion for summary judgment and rendered
judgment thereon, from which the plaintiffs appealed to this
plaintiffs, C and his construction company, G Co., appealed
from the summary judgment rendered by the trial court in
favor of the defendant abutting property owners. The
plaintiffs had sought to recover damages from the defendants
arising out of certain allegedly defamatory statements that
the defendants made concerning, inter alia, the
plaintiffs' construction of a fence on G Co.'s
commercial property. The defendants moved for summary
judgment on each count of the plaintiffs' complaint on
the grounds that none of the statements attributed to them
were defamatory as a matter of law, and that the plaintiffs
remaining claims failed in the absence of evidence of
pecuniary losses, evidence of damage to reputation, and a
genuine issue of material fact. In support of summary
judgment, the defendants provided evidence including
affidavits, excerpts of C's deposition testimony, copies
of certain correspondence, and a copy of an Internet website
article concerning the parties' dispute over the fence.
In their memorandum in opposition to summary judgment, the
plaintiffs made no specific references to that evidence, and
attached evidence of certain other correspondence and a copy
of the same article. The trial court conducted a conference
with counsel for the parties in chambers and then requested
on the record that the plaintiffs submit a more detailed
response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
The trial court explicitly directed the plaintiffs'
counsel to specifically cite to record evidence in opposing
summary judgment, and to state with precision the cause of
action alleged in the first count of the complaint. In
response, the plaintiffs' counsel filed three affidavits
and a supplemental memorandum of law, which contained general
references to the affidavits, but no specific citations to
the evidence of record as the court had instructed. At a
subsequent hearing, the trial court found that the
plaintiffs' supplemental memorandum was completely
inadequate and did not hear argument on the merits of the
motion for summary judgment. Thereafter, the trial court
rendered summary judgment for the defendants. On appeal to
this court, held that the trial court improperly
rendered summary judgment on the ground that the
plaintiffs' had submitted an inadequate brief without
first addressing whether the defendants had met their burden
of establishing that they were entitled to summary judgment:
only if the party moving for summary judgment has met its
burden of establishing its right to judgment in its favor
should the trial court consider the nonmovant's memoranda
in opposition and supporting evidentiary submissions to
determine whether they raised a genuine issue of facts
material to the movant's right to judgment in its favor
and, here, the trial court effectively sanctioned the
plaintiffs for failing to abide by its prior order by
rendering summary judgment in favor of the defendants without
considering whether the defendants had satisfied their burden
of demonstrating that they were entitled to summary judgment
in the first instance.
V. Parnoff, with whom, on the brief, was Laurence V. Parnoff,
Jr., for the appellants (plaintiffs).
Smith, for the appellees (defendants).
C. J., and Sheldon and Schuman, Js. DiPENTIMA, C. J. In this
opinion the other judges concurred.
Conn.App. 250] DiPENTIMA, C. J.
plaintiffs, Giuseppe Capasso and G. L. Capasso,
Inc., appeal from the summary
judgment rendered in favor of the defendants, Ian Christmann
and Carolyn Christmann. On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that
the court improperly rendered summary judgment on the basis
that the plaintiffs' counsel failed to file an adequate
opposition to the defendants' motion. Notwithstanding the
plaintiffs' failure to comply with the court's clear
and explicit directions, we conclude that the court failed to
address the merits of the defendants' motion, and
therefore improperly rendered summary judgment in this case.
Accordingly, we reverse the judgment and remand the case for
following facts and procedural history are relevant to this
appeal. The plaintiffs commenced this action on August 7,
2009. On March 5, 2012, the plaintiffs filed a second revised
complaint, the operative pleading in this case, setting forth
six causes of action. In count one, the plaintiffs claimed
that G. L. Capasso, Inc., is the tenant at 15 Oxford Street
in New Haven and, since 1984, has used that property as a
legal nonconforming use for its construction business,
including overnight vehicle parking. The defendants reside at
475 Quinnipiac Avenue, which abuts one side of 15 Oxford
Street. The defendants are associated with the Quinnipiac
River Community Group that " purports to be a
'grassroots neighborhood action group that has been
working to improve the quality of [life] for residents on
both sides of the Quinnipiac River . . . .'"
plaintiffs alleged that in January, 2009, the defendants
disapproved of a fence constructed on 15 Oxford [163
Conn.App. 251] Street and began a series of steps to have it
removed, including requests to have the city of New Haven
intervene. After this effort proved unsuccessful, the
plaintiffs claimed that the defendants " continued to
attempt to force the removal of the fence . . . by initiating
a public campaign of complaints against the [p]laintiffs
regarding their use of the [15 Oxford Street]." This
included claims and statements that the plaintiffs "
were not good members of the community . . . violated the law
. . . showed their disregard of the damage to the
neighborhood by . . . installation of a fence . . . allowed
and caused a deterioration of the environment . . . violated
ordinances and permits . . . and . . . owned property
potentially contaminated by petroleum products."
plaintiffs further maintained that the defendants sought to
have a special exception for the 15 Oxford Street property
misinterpreted so as to prevent the plaintiffs from accessing
it before 7 a.m. from Monday through Saturday and for 24
hours on Sunday. They also alleged that the defendants
conducted " a libelous public campaign against the
[p]laintiffs in [e]-mails and in the newspaper" by,
inter alia, referring to the plaintiff's fence as a
" spite fence" and accusing the plaintiffs of
wrongful acts, such as violating zoning laws and the illegal
storage and disposal of chemicals on the property. As a
result of these actions, which were allegedly motivated by
the defendants' desire to gain public attention, greed
and " to extort the removal of the fence," the
plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive [163 Conn.App.
252] relief, compensatory
damages for loss of business, damage to business reputation,
and punitive damages.
remaining counts alleged tortious interference with
prospective business relations, extortion, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of
emotional distress and a violation of General Statutes §
42-110a et seq., the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act
(CUTPA). The defendants filed an answer to the
plaintiffs' complaint on January 22, 2013, but did not
raise any special defenses.
the case was assigned for trial, with jury selection
scheduled to begin on June 27, 2014, the defendants filed a
motion for permission to move for summary judgment. See
Practice Book § 17-44. The court granted the
motion on April 28, 2014, over the plaintiffs' objection.
defendants filed their motion for summary judgment and
memorandum of law on May 23, 2014. They [163 Conn.App. 253]
argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because
" (1) none of the statements attributed to the
defendants is defamatory as a matter of law; (2) in the
absence of admissible evidence of pecuniary loss that was
proximately caused by the defendants' statements, there
can be no genuine issue of material fact and the
plaintiffs' defamation claims fail as a matter of law;
(3) in the absence of evidence of harm to the plaintiffs'
respective reputations that was proximately caused by the
defendants' statements, there can be no genuine issues of
material fact and the plaintiffs' defamation claims fail
as a matter of law; (4) given the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact, the plaintiffs' 'tortious
interference' claims fail as a matter of law; (5) given
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, plaintiff
Giuseppe Capasso's 'intentional infliction of
emotional distress' claim fails as a matter of law; (6)
given the absence of a genuine issue ...