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Tyler v. Tyler

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 8, 2016

JAY M. TYLER
v.
THOMAS J. TYLER ET AL.

Argued October 21, 2015

Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Radcliffe, J. [order after remand].

Jay M. Tyler, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).

Bruce D. Tyler, self-represented, the appellant (defendant and cross complaint plaintiff).

Kathleen Eldergill, for the appellee (defendant Richard Tatoian).

Beach, Sheldon and Harper, Js.

OPINION

SHELDON, J.

This case arises out of a dispute between two brothers, plaintiffs Jay Tyler and Bruce Tyler, [1] and the attorney who served as trustee of their deceased mother’s trust, defendant Richard Tatoian, [2]concerning Tatoian’s alleged mismanagement of the trust and breaches of duties he allegedly owed, as trustee, to the plaintiffs, as trust beneficiaries. The case is back before us following our dismissal, for lack of a final judgment, of the plaintiffs’ initial appeal from the trial court’s rendering of partial summary judgment in favor of Tatoian on some but not all of the plaintiffs’ claims against him. See Tyler v. Tyler, 151 Conn.App. 98, 93 A.3d 1179 (2014). After the plaintiffs filed their initial appeal, but before we dismissed that appeal, a jury trial was held in the Bridgeport Superior Court on the plaintiffs’ claims against Tatoian on which summary judgment had not been rendered. The result of that trial was a general verdict in favor of Tatoian, which was returned by the jury on October 24, 2013. No appeal or amended appeal was ever taken from the judgment rendered in favor of Tatoian upon the jury’s verdict.

After the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ initial appeal, when this case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on Jay Tyler’s reinstated claims against other defendants, the plaintiffs argued that a trial was also necessary on certain other claims against Tatoian that had not been resolved, either by summary judgment or by the jury’s general verdict. Such unresolved claims, the plaintiffs argued, were: (1) Jay Tyler’s claim that Tatoian had negligently failed to provide him with accountings of his mother’s trust while his mother was still alive; and (2) both plaintiffs’ related claims that Tatoian’s failure to furnish them with trust accountings during their mother’s lifetime had prevented them from exercising their right to seek an order from the Probate Court under General Statutes § 45a-204 compelling Tatoian, as trustee, not to keep the trust’s assets invested in the same securities received by him.

Tatoian disagreed that any of the plaintiffs’ claims against him were still pending in the trial court after their initial appeal was dismissed. He argued, to the contrary, that all such claims had either been tried to verdict before the jury or abandoned by the plaintiffs, either by not raising and requesting instructions on them in the trial court or by not appealing from the judgment rendered upon the jury’s verdict on a claim of error arising from the trial court’s failure or refusal to give such instructions as requested. The trial court, Radcliffe, J., agreed with Tatoian that none of the plaintiffs’ claims against him were still pending in the trial court after the dismissal of their initial appeal. It ruled, more specifically, that ‘‘all claims as to Richard Tatoian have been resolved based on the jury verdict rendered [October 24, 2013] and the granting of partial sum- mary judgment.’’

In this appeal, the plaintiffs claim error in the trial court’s determination that none of their claims against Tatoian were still pending in the trial court after our dismissal of their initial appeal. Here, as before the trial court, Tatoian disputes the plaintiffs’ claim.[3] We agree with Tatoian, and thus affirm the judgment of the trial court.

We set forth the following relevant facts in our decision dismissing the plaintiffs’ initial appeal with respect to Tatoian. ‘‘Ruth Tyler [executed an irrevocable trust] on October 8, 2004, for the benefit of her sons, John Tyler, Bruce Tyler, Thomas Tyler, Russell Tyler and Jay Tyler. The trust named Tatoian as trustee and provided for the termination of the trust upon Ruth Tyler’s death, with the assets of the trust remaining after payment of various expenses to be distributed to her five sons in substantially equal shares. The trust specified, by reference to Ruth Tyler’s will, that the shares allotted to the plaintiffs be reduced in accordance with the debt owed by each to Ruth Tyler. On April 1, 2010, Ruth Tyler died. Due to the value of the trust’s assets and the amount of debt owed, Jay Tyler was not entitled to receive any money from the trust.’’[4] Tyler v. Tyler, supra, 151 Conn.App. 100–101.

Litigation over Ruth Tyler’s estate began when Jay Tyler filed a complaint on January 28, 2011, in which he made several claims against all of his brothers and Tatoian. After several rounds of pleading, the operative pleadings in the case were Jay Tyler’s third amended complaint dated June 20, 2012 (complaint), and Bruce Tyler’s fourth amended cross complaint against Tatoian dated April 4, 2012 (cross complaint). The following claims were set forth in those pleadings. In the first count of the complaint, Jay Tyler sought to modify the trust, claiming that Thomas Tyler had exerted undue influence upon Ruth Tyler in relation to the trust and had conspired together with John Tyler, Russell Tyler and Tatoian to keep Ruth Tyler’s trust and will a secret from him. In the second count of the complaint, Jay Tyler also sought to modify the trust based upon allegations that the defendants’ actions against him had wrongfully deprived him of his share of the trust estate. In the third count of the complaint, Jay Tyler alleged negligence against Tatoian for failing to furnish him with accountings of the trust while his mother was still alive, and thereby preventing him from discovering the undue influence that had been exerted upon his mother in relation to the trust. In the fourth count of the complaint and the first count of the cross complaint, both plaintiffs alleged that Tatoian had failed to act as a prudent investor of the trust’s assets, in violation of General Statutes § 45a-541b.[5] In the fifth count of the complaint and second count of the cross complaint, both plaintiffs alleged that Tatoian had failed to diver- sify the trust’s assets, in violation of General Statutes § 45a-541c.[6] In the sixth count of the complaint and the third count of the cross complaint, both plaintiffs alleged that Tatoian’s failure to furnish them with trust accountings during their mother’s lifetime had prevented them from exercising their right to seek an order from the Probate Court under § 45a-204[7] compelling Tatoian, as trustee, not to keep the trust’s assets invested in the same securities received by him. Finally, in the seventh count of the complaint and the fourth count of the cross complaint, both plaintiffs alleged that Tatoian had breached his duty to the trust, and to them as trust beneficiaries, by failing to hold the investment advisor liable for losses allegedly resulting from the advisor’s advice not to diversify the trust’s assets.

On April 15, 2013, the defendants filed a joint motion for summary judgment as to all counts of the complaint and the cross complaint. In a memorandum of decision dated August 22, 2013, the court, Sommer, J., initially granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts except for count seven of the complaint and count four of the cross complaint, in which the plaintiffs sought damages from Tatoian for failing to hold the investment ...


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