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Dunn v. Etzel

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 21, 2016

ELMA DUNN
v.
DAVID P. ETZEL ET AL.

          Argued January 12, 2016

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of New Haven, Vitale, J.

          Thomas E. Minogue, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Sandra D. Grannum, pro hac vice, with whom was Scott M. Harrington, for the appellee (named defendant).

          Beach, Alvord and Norcott, Js.

          OPINION

          BEACH, J.

         The plaintiff, Elma Dunn, appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered following the granting of a motion for summary judgment as to the first count of her complaint in favor of the defendant David Etzel.[1] On appeal, the plaintiff claims that summary judgment was improperly granted because the court incorrectly concluded that a release agreement between the plaintiff and her former employer barred the claim against the defendant.[2] We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         In its memorandum of decision, the court recounted the underlying facts. ‘‘On February 25, 2014, the plaintiff . . . commenced this action against the defendant . . . . In the two count complaint, the plaintiff [alleged] the following facts. The plaintiff and the defendant are licensed stock brokers and financial advisors [who] engaged in a sexual relationship with each other while working as partners, sharing revenues equally. Shortly before the plaintiff and the defendant were hired in June of 2002, as a broker team for Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC (Janney), the plaintiff terminated their relationship. Janney provided the plaintiff and the defendant with joint financial advisor numbers so that they could maintain their previous relationship as partners and share revenue on a fifty-fifty basis. The defendant solicited client accounts and the plaintiff formulated client investment plans, prepared and reviewed plans, and provided bond offerings to the clients.

         ‘‘While at Janney, the defendant (1) refused to pay the plaintiff 50 percent of all the revenue generated each year by their partnership, (2) unilaterally reduced the plaintiff’s share of the joint partnership revenues by transferring clients from their partnership account to a separate individual account in his name, and (3) continued to make unwanted sexual advances towards the plaintiff. As a result, in count one, the plaintiff alleges the defendant breached his fiduciary duty as a partner.’’[3]

         The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. He argued that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the claim against him was barred by a ‘‘Settlement Agreement and General Release’’ (release) signed by the plaintiff and a representative of Janney.

         The motion was heard, and the court issued a written memorandum of decision granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The court found that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the release barred the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant and found that it did bar the claim. The plaintiff filed a motion for reargument and reconsideration, which the court denied.[4] This appeal followed. Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.

         The plaintiff claims that the court erred in granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. She advances three principal arguments in support of her claim. She argues that the release did not bar her claim asserting breach of fiduciary duty because (1) Janney had no control over the parties’ partnership, (2) the defendant was not a party to the release, and (3) the plaintiff did not intend to release any claims against the defendant when she agreed to the terms of the release. We disagree.

         Our review of a court’s decision to grant a motion for summary judgment is plenary. ‘‘Practice Book § 17-49 provides that 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. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the trial court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. . . . The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact and that the party is, therefore, entitled to judgment asa matter of law.’’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Savvidis v. Norwalk, 129 Conn.App. 406, 409–10, 21 A.3d 842, cert. denied, 302 Conn. 913, 27 A.3d 372 (2011). ‘‘Once the moving party has met its burden . . . the opposing party must present evidence that demonstrates the existence of some disputed factual issue. . . . It is not enough, however, for the opposing party merely to assert the existence of such a disputed issue. Mere assertions of fact . . . are insufficient to establish the existence of a material fact . . . .’’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Bonington v. Westport, 297 Conn. 297, 305, 999 A.2d 700 (2010).

         ‘‘On appeal, we must determine whether the legal conclusions reached by the trial court are legally and logically correct and whether they find support in the facts set out in the memorandum of decision of the trial court.’’ (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Savvidis v.Norwalk, supra, 129 Conn.App. 410. Our review of the trial ...


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