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Hall v. Gulaid

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 31, 2016

AINSWORTH HALL
v.
GULAID O. GULAID

          Argued February 8, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Robaina, J.

          Edward W. Case, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Michael J. Carreira, for the appellee (defendant).

          DIPENTIMA, C. J., AND LAVINE AND SHELDON, JS.

          OPINION

          DIPENTIMA, C. J.

         The plaintiff, Ainsworth Hall, appeals from the summary judgment rendered in favor of the defendant, Gulaid O. Gulaid. The plaintiff’s sole claim[1] on appeal is that the trial court improperly concluded that his negligence action brought pursuant to General Statutes § 52-593[2] was barred by res judicata. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following undisputed facts and procedural history that are relevant to this appeal. This appeal stems from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on March 31, 2012, in which an automobile being operated by the defendant collided with a trailer being towed by the plaintiff’s automobile. The police accident report identified the operators involved in the accident as the plaintiff and the defendant. The report also noted the defendant’s Connecticut driver’s license number and reported his birth year as 1993. The accident report identified Osman M. Gulaid (Osman), who resided at the same address as the defendant, as the owner of the automobile the defendant was operating at the time of the accident.

         The plaintiff commenced a negligence action against Osman on July 11, 2013 (first action). In a single count complaint, he alleged that Osman, while ‘‘operating his motor vehicle, ’’ ‘‘collided with the trailer of the motor vehicle operated by the plaintiff.’’ As a result, the plaintiff suffered various injuries that were caused by Osman’s alleged negligence and careless operation of his automobile. In response, Osman filed his answer and special defenses, in which he denied that he was the operator of the vehicle that collided with the plaintiff’s trailer and caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

         On January 17, 2014, Osman responded to the plaintiff’s interrogatories and requests for production. Relevant to this appeal, Osman answered that he was born in 1946, provided his Connecticut driver’s license number, and confirmed that he was the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident with the plaintiff. To an interrogatory seeking the ‘‘names and addresses of all persons known to you who were present at the time of the incident alleged in the [c]omplaint or who observed or witnessed all or part of the incident, ’’ Osman answered as follows: ‘‘I know my son, [the defendant] was present. I am not aware of the name(s) of the other individuals.’’ Furthermore, in response to two interrogatories starting with the prefatory clause, ‘‘[i]f you were the operator of any motor vehicle involved in the incident that is the subject of this action, ’’ Osman answered: ‘‘Not applicable.’’

         On May 13, 2014, Osman moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was no genuine issue of material fact that he was not the operator of the vehicle that collided with the plaintiff’s trailer and caused his resulting injuries. The court, Huddleston, J., issued an order granting Osman’s motion for summary judgment on June 9, 2014. It noted that during discovery, Osman had stated that he was born in 1946, had denied that he was the operator of the vehicle, and had admitted that his son was present at the accident site. The court further noted that the police accident report identified the operator of the vehicle as the defendant, born in 1993.

         The plaintiff later commenced another action on June 17, 2014 (second action). The complaint in the second action identified the defendant as the operator and Osman as the owner of the vehicle that struck the plaintiff’s trailer and injured the plaintiff, but otherwise repeated the allegations of the complaint in the first action. This complaint made no mention of the applicability of § 52-593. On June 19, 2014, the defendant and Osman moved for summary judgment on the ground that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the statute of limitations, General Statutes § 52-584, [3]had run. On July 14, 2014, the court, Hon. Jerry Wagner, judge trial referee, held a hearing on the motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff was not present.[4]From the bench, the court granted the motion for summary judgment. In its order, the court noted that ‘‘[n]oth-ing ha[d] been filed in opposition.’’ Furthermore, because ‘‘[n]o one ha[d] appeared to [oppose] this motion at short calendar and the statute of limitations on this matter ha[d] long run, ’’ there was no genuine issue of material fact that the action was barred by the statute of limitations.

         The plaintiff thereafter commenced the present action against the defendant alone on December 17, 2014. The complaintin this action included an allegation not contained in the previous complaint, stating that the action had been brought pursuant to § 52-593, the wrong defendant statute. It alleged in a single count that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries through his negligent and careless operation of the automobile owned by Osman. On January 6, 2015, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the statute of limitations had run. In addition, the defendant argued that res judicata barred the action and that § 52-593 could not save it. On January 20, 2015, the plaintiff filed an objection to the motion for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the ‘‘existence of . . . § 52-593 raise[d] an issue of material fact [that] defeat[ed] [the defendant’s motion for] [s]ummary [j]udgment . . . .’’ On February 2, 2015, the court, Robaina, J., held a hearing on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff was not present at the hearing. A little more than two weeks later, the plaintiff filed a caseflow request to argue his objection to the motion for summary judgment, indicating that he had not received notice of the short calendar hearing.[5] It does not appear that the court acted on the plaintiff’s request. On March 16, 2015, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment was granted on the ground that the ‘‘entry of summary judgment in [the second action] preclude[d] the claim brought in this case.’’ The plaintiff filed a motion to reargue and a motion for articulation. Both were denied. This appeal followed.

         As a threshold matter, we set forth the applicable standard of review and discuss the legal principles relevant to our resolution of the plaintiff’s claim. It is well established that our standard of review over a trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment is plenary. Finkle v. Carroll, 134 Conn.App. 278, 282, 37 A.3d 851 (2012), aff’d, 315 Conn. 821, 110 A.3d 387 (2015). ‘‘Pursuant to Practice Book § 17-49, summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and any 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. . . . A material fact is a fact which will make a difference in the result of the case.’’ (Internal ...


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