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Reddick v. Guirguis

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

May 23, 2016

Keyaira Reddick
v.
Andrew Guirguis et al Opinion No. 133761

          Judge (with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and Walsh): Wilson, Robin L., J.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE MOTION TO STRIKE (#102)

          Wilson, J.

         The plaintiff, Keyaira Reddick (plaintiff) commenced this action by way writ, summons and complaint against the defendants, Andrew Guirguis, Amal Guirguis and Michelle Boykin (defendants). The complaint is in three counts and alleges the following. On March 28, 2014, the plaintiff was a passenger in a motor vehicle being operated by the defendant Michelle Boykin in a southerly direction on Route 15, near the Exit 65 entrance ramp and the Exit 64 exit ramp, in Wallingford, Connecticut. At the same time and place, the defendant, Andrew Guirguis was operating a motor vehicle owned by the defendant Amal Guirguis on the Exit 65 entrance ramp to southbound Route 15. The defendant, Andrew Guirguis was operating the vehicle owned by Amal Guirguis with the express and/or implied permission of the defendant owner, and/or the vehicle was being operated as a family car with the defendant owner's permission or consent, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 52-182 and/or the common law.

         As the vehicle in which the plaintiff was a passenger proceeded in a southerly direction on Route 15, defendant Andrew Guirguis collided with the plaintiff's vehicle, causing the plaintiff to sustained injuries and losses. Count one alleges negligence against defendant Andrew Guirguis in the operation of the vehicle and alleges vicarious liability against defendant Amal Guirguis as owner of the vehicle. Count two alleges recklessness against defendant Andrew Guirguis under the common law and pursuant to General Statutes § 14-295, and count three alleges negligence against Michelle Boykin. The defendants have filed a motion to strike count two of the complaint on grounds that there are no facts pled to support the plaintiff's assertion of deliberate and/or reckless conduct under the common law. The defendants filed a memorandum of law in support of the motion. The plaintiff has filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion and argues that she has properly pled common law recklessness and statutory recklessness. Oral argument on the motion was heard on May 2, 2016.

         DISCUSSION

         I

         Legal Standard of Review

         " The purpose of a motion to strike is to contest . . . the legal sufficiency of the allegations of any complaint . . . to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. Alves, 262 Conn. 480, 498, 815 A.2d 1188 (2003). A motion to strike therefore " requires no factual findings by the trial court." American Progressive Life & Health Ins. Co. of New York v. Better Benefits, LLC, 292 Conn. 111, 120, 971 A.2d 17 (2009). " It is fundamental that in determining the sufficiency of a complaint challenged by a defendant's motion to strike, all well-pleaded facts and those facts necessarily implied from the allegations are taken as admitted." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Violano v. Fernandez, 280 Conn. 310, 318, 907 A.2d 1188 (2006). " If any facts provable under the express and implied allegations in the plaintiff's complaint support a cause of action . . . the complaint is not vulnerable to a motion to strike." Bouchard v. People's Bank, 219 Conn. 465, 471, 594A.2d 1 (1991). The court must " construe the complaint in the manner most favorable to sustaining its legal sufficiency." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) American Progressive Life & Health Ins. Co. of New York v. Better Benefits, LLC, supra, 292 Conn. at 120.

         II

         COUNT TWO: STATUTORY RECKLESSNESS

         In the second count of the complaint, the plaintiff incorporates paragraphs 1-8 of the first count, and alleges in paragraph 9 that, the defendant, Andrew Guirguis " made a conscious choice to drive his vehicle onto the highway from a stopped position, when he knew, or should have known, that attempting to drive onto the highway, in such close proximity to vehicles already on the highway and traveling past him, posed a serious danger to others . . . As a result thereof, defendant's conduct was reckless under the common law, and/or defendant's conduct showed a reckless disregard of the consequences and/or was so egregious so as to endanger the safety of others, in violation of the common law and Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-222 . . . By the above acts, plaintiff seeks exemplary or punitive damages, and/or double or treble damages, pursuant to the common law and/or Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-295." The defendants argue that the court should strike the second count because the plaintiff has not alleged conduct that distinguishes their statutory recklessness claim from their negligence claim. The plaintiff argues in response, that she has alleged sufficient facts to support her statutory claim for recklessness.

         " This court has previously addressed the standard for a statutory recklessness claim in the context of a motion to strike in Ferraiuolo v. Nicholson, Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Docket No. CV 09 5031138 (December 7, 2009, Wilson, J.). This court wrote: " [Section] 14-295 states explicitly that 'the trier of fact may award double or treble damages if the injured party has specifically pleaded that another party has deliberately or with reckless disregard operated a motor vehicle in violation of [ inter alia ] Section . . . 14-222 . . . and that such violation was a substantial factor in causing such injury, death or damage to property . . .' Neither the Connecticut Supreme Court nor the Appellate Court has yet to address the pleading requirements for recklessness under § 14-295. There has been a split of authority in Superior Court decisions as to what degree of specificity is required in pleading recklessness. See Alibrandi v. Romero, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Docket No. CV 08 5017380 (November 7, 2008, Bellis, J.). A slight majority of Superior Court decisions have required that a plaintiff need only plead the general allegations enumerated in § 14-295, namely, that the defendant has deliberately or with reckless disregard violated one of the enumerated statutes, and the violation was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's injuries. Id. " Ferraiuolo v. Nicholson, Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Docket No. CV 09 5031138 (December 7, 2009, Wilson, J.). " The majority view is based both on an analysis of the legislative history as well as a review of the statutory language of § 14-295 itself. These cases conclude that as long as the general requirements of the statute are met, such pleading is enough to survive a motion to strike and to state a cause of action under § 14-295." Aguirre v. Cammisa, Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Docket No. CV-14-6046086 (July 28, 2014, Wilson, J.).

         " Courts taking the majority view have emphasized the plain meaning of § 14-295: 'There does not appear to be any ambiguity in the language of [§ ]14-295 or how it should be applied or construed. The statute says that in a civil action seeking damages for personal injuries, the trier of fact may award double or treble damages if the plaintiff has specifically pleaded that another party has deliberately or with reckless disregard operated a motor vehicle in violation of . . . [one or more motor vehicle statutes delineated in the statute]. If a further delineation of facts forming the basis of the recklessness claim were necessary, then such an explicit requirement could have been set out in the statute by the legislature.' Lombard v. Booth, Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Docket No. CV 01 0383637 (July 12, 2001, Stevens, J.) (30 Conn. L. Rptr. 78). 'Where the language used by the legislature is plain and unambiguous, there is no room for construction by the courts and the statute will be applied as its words direct.' Warkentin v. Burns, 223 Conn. 14, 22, 610 A.2d 1287 (1992).

         " In contrast, a minority of courts have required that plaintiffs plead the specific conduct that is reckless, above and beyond what must be pleaded for mere negligence. Alibrandi v.Romero, supra, Superior Court, Docket No. CV 08 5017380. Courts following the minority view have highlighted the substantive difference between negligence and recklessness. 'Our Superior [C]ourts have held that the reiteration of facts previously asserted to support a cause of action in negligence, without more, cannot be transformed into a claim of reckless misconduct [by mere] nomenclature.' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Leigh v.Cook, Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Docket No. CV 06 6000492, 2007 WL 1676743 (May 24, 2007, Holden, J.). 'To allow a plaintiff to simply allege reckless disregard of a statutory provision would enable any negligence claim to be brought as a recklessness claim and thereby make it subject to double and treble damages. The plaintiff would only have to plead that in addition to the defendant's conduct being careless it was also deliberate. This court does not believe it was the ...


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