Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

NPC offices, LLC v. Kowaleski

Supreme Court of Connecticut

March 1, 2016

NPC OFFICES, LLC
v.
WILLIAM KOWALESKI ET AL

         Argued December 9, 2015

          Action for a temporary and permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from interfering with the plaintiff's alleged right-of-way on certain of the defendants' real property, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Middlesex, where the defendants filed a counterclaim; thereafter, the trial court, Bear, J., granted the plaintiff's motion to cite in 184-188 South Main Street, LLC, as a defendant; subsequently, the defendant 184-188 South Main Street, LLC, filed a counterclaim and the matter was tried to the court, Abrams, J.; judgment for the defendants on the complaint and in part for the plaintiff on the counterclaims, from which the plaintiff appealed and the defendants cross appealed to the Appellate Court, DiPentima, C. J., and Mullins and Mihalakos, Js., which affirmed the judgment of the trial court, and the plaintiff, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court.

          Reversed; new trial.

          SYLLABUS

         The plaintiff, the owner of a certain parcel of real property presently used as a psychologist's office, appealed, and the defendant adjacent property owners cross appealed, to the Appellate Court from the judgment of the trial court terminating an easement over a shared driveway located on certain of the defendants property. The easement was created by an agreement between previous owners of the properties that contained a provision providing for termination of the easement in the event the plaintiff's property was used for purposes other than residential or professional offices. The plaintiff's property was subsequently used as a mortgage brokerage, a home health-care agency, and an appliance delivery coordination service. Thereafter, the defendants constructed a fence on the properties' common boundary that severely restricted access to a parking area behind the plaintiff's property. The plaintiff then filed the present action seeking, inter alia, to quiet title to the easement and injunctive relief ordering removal of the fence. The defendants filed special defenses alleging, inter alia, that the easement had terminated because the plaintiff's property had been used for purposes other than professional offices or residential uses, and also filed counterclaims of quiet title, civil trespass and private nuisance. The trial court concluded that the easement had terminated because the previous uses of the plaintiff's property did not constitute professional offices under the agreement and, accordingly, rendered judgment for the defendants on the plaintiff's complaint and for the defendants, in part, on their counterclaims, rejecting their claims of trespass and private nuisance. On the plaintiff's appeal and the defendants' cross appeal, the Appellate Court concluded that the previous uses of the plaintiff's property did not qualify as professional offices because a high level of training and proficiency was not required for their operation. The Appellate Court also concluded that, because the defendants failed to present any evidence as to damages, a reversal of the trial court's rejection of their trespass and nuisance claims would result in an award of nominal damages. Accordingly, the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court's judgment, from which the plaintiff, on the granting of certification, appealed to this court. Held that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the trial court's judgment based upon its conclusion that the easement was terminated by the prior tenancies of the plaintiff's property: the language of the agreement was ambiguous where dictionaries contained both narrow and broad definitions of the term " professional," the agreement did not define the term " professional office," and the parties provided no evidence at trial to suggest that the term " professional" in the agreement was intended to have any special or unusual connotation, and, construing that ambiguity in favor of the plaintiff as the grantee of the easement, under the broader definition of the term " professional" as any pursuit for gain or livelihood, the agreement did not preclude use of the plaintiff's property as a mortgage broker, a home health-care agency, or an appliance delivery coordination service; because reversing the judgment of the Appellate Court did not dispose of all of the claims relating to the agreement and the parties' respective properties, the case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial to consider those issues.

         Michael S. Taylor, with whom, on the brief, were James P. Sexton and Matthew C. Eagan, for the appellant (plaintiff).

         Michelle M. Seery, with whom was William J. O'Sullivan, for the appellees (defendants).

         Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald, Espinosa and Robinson, Js.

          OPINION

Page 1145

          [320 Conn. 521] EVELEIGH, J.

          The dispositive issue in this appeal is the determination of the meaning of the term " professional offices" as used in a right-of-way agreement (agreement), which created an express easement for the benefit of property owned by the plaintiff, NPC Offices, LLC, over a driveway located on the property owned by the defendant 184-188 South Main Street, LLC, a limited liability company under the ownership and control of the defendants William Kowaleski and Sharon Kowaleski. The plaintiff appeals, on the granting of certification,[1]

Page 1146

from the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of the trial court quieting title to the driveway in favor of the defendants and declaring the easement terminated. NPC Offices, LLC v. Kowaleski, 152 Conn.App. 445, 447-48, 100 A.3d 42 (2014). On appeal to this court, the plaintiff claims that the Appellate Court improperly affirmed the judgment of the trial court based upon its conclusion that the plaintiff's property had been used for purposes other [320 Conn. 522] than " professional offices" in violation of the terms of the agreement. We agree with the plaintiff and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the Appellate Court and remand the case for a new trial in accordance with this opinion.

         The opinion of the Appellate Court sets forth the following undisputed facts and procedural history. " The plaintiff, a limited liability company of which Marc Aronson is the sole member, owns an office building located at 192 South Main Street in Middletown. Aronson operates a psychologist's office. The defendant 184-188 South Main Street, LLC, a limited liability company under the ownership and control of the defendants William Kowaleski and Sharon Kowaleski, owns an office building located at 184-188 South Main Street, which is situated on property abutting the plaintiff's property. The defendants operate a hair salon. The buildings are separated by a driveway, located on the defendants' property, which provides access to a parking area behind both buildings.

         " The plaintiff's claimed right of access to the driveway stems from an agreement entered into by previous owners of the two properties. Created in 1960, the agreement referred to the owners of the property located at 184-188 South Main Street as the `First Parties' and the owners of the property at 192 South Main Street as the `Second Parties.' It provided that `the First Parties grant to the Second Parties and unto the survivor of them, and unto such survivor's heirs and assigns forever the right (in common with the First Parties' heirs and assigns) to pass and re-pass by vehicle or on foot over the entire length of said driveway running from South Main Street to the garages on the First Parties' premises, except that, in the event that [192 South Main Street] shall be used for purposes other than residential or professional offices, the Second Parties' right to use the said driveway shall terminate.' The [320 Conn. 523] agreement was recorded and was the sole instrument in either property's chain of title governing the rights and obligations of the parties as they relate to the driveway. The garages referenced in the agreement no longer existed at the time of trial, but the driveway remained intact.

         " In 1990, the defendants acquired their property and the plaintiff acquired its property in 2008. Soon after, the use of the driveway and the parking area behind the offices became a source of frequent disputes, leading to an acrimonious relationship between the parties. On or about September 6, 2008, the defendants constructed

Page 1147

an iron fence behind the buildings along the properties' common boundary in an effort to separate the properties' respective parking areas. The fence severely restricted access to and maneuverability in the parking area behind the plaintiff's property.

         " Thereafter, the plaintiff commenced the present action and filed a complaint dated September 8, 2008. The plaintiff's operative complaint asserted, [in addition to claims of fraudulent transfer, entry and detainer, and creation of prescriptive and implied easements] a quiet title claim asking the court to find that the erection of the fence violated the terms of the agreement and to clarify the extent of the [easement], and a claim seeking an injunction restoring the plaintiff's rights under the agreement. The defendants denied the plaintiff's claims and raised special defenses, including an assertion that the plaintiff's property had been used for purposes other than professional offices or residential uses, thus terminating the . . . agreement. The defendants also asserted counterclaims, including, among other ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.