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Finno v. Rebimbas

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of New Britain, New Britain

April 5, 2016

Reginald Finno et al.
v.
Rosa Rebimbas et al Opinion No. 133487

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT #110

          PETER EMMETT WIESE, JUDGE

         I

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The plaintiffs, Reginald Finno and the Reginald P. Finno Family 2005 Revocable Trust, filed this action against the defendant, Rosa Rebimbas and her firm, the Law Offices of Rosa C. Rebimbas, LLC for legal malpractice regarding a power of attorney form. According to the October 1, 2014 complaint, the plaintiffs executed a contractual agreement to invest with a third-party investment firm, First Financial, LLC, owed by Feisal Sharif, but later discovered that First Financial was engaged in a fraudulent Ponzi scheme.[1] The plaintiffs assert that the defendant served as legal counsel to First Financial and as " reasonably diligent legal counsel" should have inquired into the validity of First Financial's operations and profits.[2] The plaintiffs allege that because of the defendant's negligence and carelessness, the plaintiffs have suffered significant financial losses and damages. Count one sounds in negligence against the defendant, count two incorporates the paragraphs of count one against the defendant's law firm.

         On November 16, 2015, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment (110.00) and supporting memorandum of law (111.00). On January 11, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion (114.00). The defendant filed a reply memorandum to the plaintiffs' objection (115.00) on January 15, 2016. Parties presented oral argument at short calendar on January 19, 2016.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Parties' Arguments

         In her motion for summary judgment, the defendant argues that the plaintiffs lack standing because they do not have an attorney-client relationship with the defendant, nor does the defendant owe a duty to the plaintiffs. Furthermore, even if the court were to find standing, the defendant contends that the plaintiffs failed to disclose an expert witness and that the statute of limitations pursuant to General Statutes § 52-577 bars the legal malpractice claims.[3] In their opposition, the plaintiffs maintain that the defendant, as legal counsel and attorney in fact for Sharif, owes a duty to intended beneficiaries such as the plaintiffs.

         B. Legal Standard

         " [S]ummary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and 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." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Stuart v. Freiberg, 316 Conn. 809, 820-21, 116 A.3d 1195 (2015). " [A]lthough the use of a motion for summary judgment may be a proper vehicle to raise issues of subject matter jurisdiction in some cases . . . generally, [t]he proper procedural vehicle for disputing a party's standing is a motion to dismiss . . . We see no reason to deviate from the general practice in the present case. Consequently, we treat the defendant's motion for summary judgment as a motion to dismiss." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Sethi v. Yagildere, 136 Conn.App. 767, 770 n.6, 47 A.3d 892, cert. denied, 307 Conn. 905, 53 A.3d 220 (2012). " [T]he plaintiff bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction, whenever and however raised." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. New London, 265 Conn. 423, 430 n.12, 829 A.2d 801 (2003).

         C. Standing

         Standing implicates a court's subject matter jurisdiction. Stamford Hospital v. Vega, 236 Conn. 646, 656, 674 A.2d 821 (1996). " Where a plaintiff lacks standing to sue, the court is without subject matter jurisdiction." Steeneck v. University of Bridgeport, 235 Conn. 572, 580, 668 A.2d 688 (1995). " Standing is the legal right to set judicial machinery in motion. One cannot rightfully invoke the jurisdiction of the court unless he [or she] has, in an individual or representative capacity, some real interest in the cause of action, or a legal or equitable right, title or interest in the subject matter of the controversy." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Williams v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 257 Conn. 258, 264-65, 777 A.2d 645 (2001)." See also Hunter v. Olschelski, Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven at Meriden, Docket No. CV-01-0276707-S (March 19, 2002, Skolnick, J.) (31 Conn. L. Rptr. 585).

         D. Duty & Legal Malpractice

         " In general, the plaintiff in an attorney malpractice action must establish: (1) the existence of an attorney-client relationship; (2) the attorney's wrongful act or omission; (3) causation; and (4) damages." Mayer v. Biafore, Florek & O'Neill, 245 Conn. 88, 92, 713 A.2d 1267 (1998). " As a general rule, attorneys are not liable to persons other than their clients for the negligent rendering of services." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Goodyear v. Discala, 269 Conn. 507, 517, 849 A.2d 791 (2004). " The failure to allege or establish the existence of [an attorney-client] relationship implicates a plaintiff's standing and therefore the court's subject matter jurisdiction." Spezzano v. Andersen, Superior Court, judicial district ...


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