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Ellis v. Town of West Hartford

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Hartford, Hartford

May 24, 2016

Susan G. Ellis
v.
Town of West Hartford Opinion No. 133780

          Judge (with first initial, no space for Sullivan, Dorsey, and Walsh): Wahla, M. Nawaz, J.

          RULING RE MOTIONS POSTJUDGMENT INTEREST (#161.00 AND #177.00')

          Wahla, J.

         I

         BACKGROUND

         On November 4, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion for postjudgment interest (#161.00). On November 12, 2015, the defendant filed an objection to the motion (#162.00). On December 1, 2015, plaintiff filed a reply brief (#166.00) and additionally on December 24, 2015, the plaintiff filed a correction sheet (#167.00). On January 27, 2016, the court entered an order denying the post judgment interest as premature in accordance with General Statutes § 37-3b (#167.86). The plaintiff filed a motion to reargue and reconsider which was granted by the court. The court heard argument from the parties on March 23, 2016. On February 10, 2016 and March 29, 2016, the plaintiff filed two supplemental motions to reargue and reconsider (##172.00, 177.00).

         At oral argument and in her second supplemental motion to reargue and reconsider, as well as, in all prior pleadings on the subject of postjudgment interest rate, the plaintiff emphatically advocates that an award of 10% interest rate is appropriate and mandatory. To buttress this argument, the plaintiff directs the court to the town's payment of 18% interest on overdue taxes. Additionally, the plaintiff points out that this court's prior denial of post judgment interest rate under § 37-3b as premature was erroneous because of appellate precedent, and also because the plaintiff never made a claim under § 37-3b. The plaintiff seeks that court's prior order (#167.86) should be vacated and interest in the amount of 10% be granted.

         II

         GENERAL STATUTES § 37-3a

         The review of the relevant statute and applicable case law is quite instructive to the issue of presumptive interest rate, as the plaintiff would like to describe it. " [I]n the context of [General Statutes] § 37-3a, a wrongful detention of money, that is, a detention of money without the legal right to do so, is established merely by a favorable judgment on the underlying legal claim, so that the court has discretion to award interest on that judgment, without any additional showing of wrongfulness, upon a finding that such an award is fair and equitable. Consequently, contrary to the determination of the trial court, the fact that a defendant has a legal right to withhold payment under the judgment during the pendency of an appeal is irrelevant to the question of whether the plaintiff is entitled to interest under § 37-3a." DiLieto v. County Obstetrics & Gynecology Group, P.C., 310 Conn. 38, 48-49, 74 A.3d 1212 (2013).

         " § 37-3a provides that interest may be recovered and, therefore, does not require an award of interest in every case in which money has been detained after it has become payable. Rather, an award of interest is discretionary." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 50.

         " [A]n award of interest under § 37-3a . . . is discretionary with the trial court. Interest is awarded . . . when the court determines that such an award is appropriate to compensate the plaintiff for the loss of the use of his or her money. Basically, the question is whether the interests of justice require the allowance of interest as damages for the loss of use of money." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 54.

         " § 37-3a . . . does not identify the factors to be considered by the trial court in exercising its discretion under the statute. Accordingly, the court is free to consider whatever factors may be relevant to its determination. Judicial discretion, however, is always a legal discretion, exercised according to the recognized principles of equity . . . Such discretion . . . imports something more than leeway in decision making and should be exercised in conformity with the spirit of the law and should not impede or defeat the ends of substantial justice." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 54-55.

         " Inherent [therefore] in the concept of judicial discretion is the idea of choice and a determination between competing considerations . . . A court's discretion must be informed by the policies that the relevant statute is intended to advance . . . As we have indicated, regardless of whether a statute provides for mandatory or discretionary postjudgment interest, the policy behind any such provision is to compensate the successful party for the loss of the use of the money that he or she ...


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