October 13, 2016
N. Jameson, with whom, on the brief, was Michael D. Colonese,
for the appellant (plaintiff).
Michael C. Harrington, with whom were Jennifer A. Corvo and,
on the brief, Proloy K. Das and Sarah M. Gruber, for the
appellee (named defendant).
P. Mercier filed a brief for the Connecticut Employment
Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.
Charles Krich, principal attorney, and Michael E. Roberts,
human rights attorney, filed a brief for the Commission on
Human Rights and Opportunities as amicus curiae.
Rogers, C. J., and Palmer, Zarella, Eveleigh, McDonald and
certified appeal, we consider whether General Statutes §
46a-104 provides for an award of statutory
punitive damages as a remedy for discriminatory practices
under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (act),
General Statutes § 46a-51 et seq. The plaintiff, Michael
Tomick, appeals, upon our grant of his petition for
certification,  from the judgment of the Appellate Court
affirming the trial court's decision to set aside a jury
award of $500, 000 in statutory punitive damages against the
defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. Tomick v.
United Parcel Service, Inc., 157 Conn.App. 312, 115
A.3d 1143 (2015) (Tomick II). On appeal, the
plaintiff claims that the Appellate Court improperly ignored
the plain language of § 46a-104 in concluding that the
statute does not authorize punitive damages. We disagree with
the plaintiff, and conclude that § 46a-104 does not
provide for an award of punitive damages. Accordingly, we
affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.
record and the Appellate Court opinion reveal the following
facts and procedural history. The plaintiff had been employed
by the defendant as a driver. After the defendant terminated
the plaintiff's employment, the plaintiff filed a seven
count complaint against the defendant alleging, inter alia,
disability discrimination in violation of General Statutes
§ 46a-60 (a) (1). Id., 320. Following a jury trial,
a jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding
him, inter alia, $500, 000 in statutory punitive damages.
Id., 321. On July 19, 2010, the defendant moved to
set aside the verdict and the award of punitive damages.
Id. The trial court denied the motion to set aside
the verdict, but granted the motion to set aside the award of
punitive damages. Id.
parties appealed from the judgment of the trial court. See
generally Tomick v. United Parcel Service,
Inc., 135 Conn.App. 589, 43 A.3d 722 (Tomick
I), cert. denied, 305 Conn. 920, 47 A.3d 389 (2012).
After a remand to the trial court; see id.,
the Appellate Court considered the plaintiff's claim that
the trial court improperly determined that § 46a-104
does not authorize an award of punitive
damages. Tomick II, supra, 157 Conn.App.
333. In its decision, the Appellate Court began by reviewing
Ames v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 267
Conn. 524, 526, 839 A.2d 1250 (2004), in which this court
considered whether express statutory language is required to
authorize an award of multiple damages. Tomick II,
supra, 336-41. Although the plaintiff claimed that the
discussion in Ames regarding punitive damages was
‘‘mere dictum, '' the Appellate Court
disagreed and determined that Ames was binding
authority. Id., 338-41. The Appellate Court read
Ames as stating a common-law rule that statutory
punitive damages require express statutory authority, and
applied that reasoning to the question of whether §
46a-104 authorized punitive damages.
Appellate Court turned next to statutes related to §
46a-104 and discussed instances in which the legislature
specifically provided for punitive damages, in contrast to
the plain language of § 46a-104. Id., 341. On
the basis of these statutes, the Appellate Court observed
that the legislature knows how to provide for statutory
punitive damages, when it wishes to do so. Id.
Ultimately, the Appellate Court concluded that,
‘‘[b]ecause the language of § 46a-104 does
not explicitly provide for punitive damages, the plaintiff is
not entitled to such relief under the statute.''
Id. Thus, the Appellate Court held that the trial
court did not abuse its discretion in setting aside the $500,
000 statutory punitive damages award. Id. This
certified appeal followed. See footnote 2 of this opinion.
appeal, the plaintiff claims that § 46a-104 is plain and
unambiguous, because the phrase ‘‘legal and
equitable relief, '' as modified by the phrase
‘‘including, but not limited to, ''
authorizes all forms of legal and equitable relief, including
punitive damages. The plaintiff further contends that the
legislature included language that specifically precludes
punitive damage awards in other statutes, which undercuts the
Appellate Court's conclusion that the legislature
intended not to allow awards of punitive damages pursuant to
§ 46a-104, which is silent on that point. With respect
to Ames v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles,
supra, 267 Conn. 524, the plaintiff claims that its holding
is limited to General Statutes (Rev. to 2003) § 14-52,
that it cannot be read to establish a bright line rule
requiring the legislature to expressly authorize punitive
damages every time it intends to make statutory punitive
damages available. Finally, the plaintiff contends that his
interpretation of § 46a-104 allowing for awards of
punitive damages is consistent with the remedial purpose of
the act to afford relief to complainants and prevent future
response, the defendant relies on Ames v.
Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, supra, 267 Conn.
536, for the proposition that, under Connecticut common law,
statutory punitive damages must be authorized expressly by
the legislature, and because § 46a-104 does not provide
such express authorization, it therefore does not permit
awards of statutory punitive damages as a form of relief. The
defendant compares § 46a-104 to other related human
rights statutes in which the legislature specifically
provided for punitive damages, to argue that the
plaintiff's interpretation of § 46a-104 would render
superfluous language in these other statutes, contravening
the well established canon of statutory construction that
assumes all statutory language is meaningful. The defendant
also highlights the legislative history of § 46a-104,
observing that its stated purpose was to address the backlog
of cases within the Commission on Human Rights and
Opportunities (commission), and that the topic of punitive
damages under the act was never debated. Finally, the
defendant contends that punitive damage awards are not
necessary to accomplish the remedial purpose of the act, in
light of other significant relief that may be awarded under
the statute. We agree with the defendant, and conclude that
punitive damages are not an available remedy under §
issue of whether § 46a-104 allows an award of punitive
damages as a remedy presents a question of statutory
construction over which we exercise plenary
review. Gonzalez v. O & G
Industries, Inc., 322 Conn. 291, 302, 140 A.3d 950
(2016). ‘‘When construing a statute, [o]ur
fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the
apparent intent of the legislature. . . . In other words, we
seek to determine, in a reasoned manner, the meaning of the
statutory language as applied to the facts of [the] case,
including the question of whether the language actually does
apply. . . . In seeking to determine that meaning, General
Statutes § 1-2z directs us first to consider the text of
the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes.
If, after examining such text and considering such
relationship, the meaning of such text is plain and
unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results,
extratextual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not
be considered. . . . When a statute is not plain and
unambiguous, we also look for interpretive guidance to the
legislative history and circumstances surrounding its
enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to
implement, and to its relationship to existing legislation
and common law principles governing the same general subject
matter . . . . The test to determine ambiguity is whether the
statute, when read in context, is susceptible to more than
one reasonable interpretation.'' (Internal quotation
marks omitted.) Id., 302-303. Significantly,
‘‘our case law is clear that ambiguity exists
only if the statutory language at issue is susceptible to
more than one plausible interpretation.'' State
v. Orr, 291 Conn. 642, 654, 969 A.2d 750
accordance with § 1-2z, we begin our analysis with the
text of the statute. Section 46a-104 provides the following:
‘‘The court may grant a complainant in an action
brought in accordance with section 46a-100 such legal and
equitable relief which it deems appropriate
including, but not limited to, temporary or
permanent injunctive relief, attorney's fees and court
costs. The amount of attorney's fees allowed shall not be
contingent upon the amount of damages requested by or awarded
to the complainant.'' (Emphasis added.) Although the
defendant agrees that this language is expansive, it argues
that the phrase ‘‘including, but not limited
to'' does not implicitly include relief for which
express authorization otherwise is required. The plaintiff,
however, contends that the term ‘‘legal . . .
relief'' includes punitive damages, and so textually,
§ 46a-104 provides for punitive damages. We conclude
that both interpretations are plausible, rendering §
§ 46a-104, the act, nor related human rights statutes
define either term as used in § 46a-104. General
Statutes § 1-1 (a) provides in relevant part:
‘‘In the construction of the statutes . . .
technical words and phrases, and such as have acquired a
peculiar and appropriate meaning in the law, shall be
construed and understood accordingly.'' As such, we
look to the common law to define the terms. See Pacific
Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Champion Steel, LLC, 323
Conn. 254, 265, 146 A.3d 975 (2016) (‘‘[i]t is
axiomatic that the legislature is presumed to be aware of the
common law when it enacts statutes'').
the phrase ‘‘including, but not limited to,
'' as expansive; see Lusa v.
Grunberg, 101 Conn.App. 739, 757, 923 A.2d 795
(2007); and in conjunction with ‘‘legal . . .
relief, '' which is defined as money damages; see
Mertens v. Hewitt Associates, 508 U.S. 248,
255, 113 S.Ct. 2063, 124 L.Ed.2d 161 (1993); the
plaintiff's reading of § 46a-104 that it provides
for punitive damages is reasonable. Additionally, the
legislature has been inconsistent throughout the General
Statutes, in that some statutes expressly provide for awards
of punitive damages; see, e.g., General Statutes (Supp. 2016)
§ 46a-83 (g) (2); and others appear to expressly
prohibit punitive damages. See, e.g., General Statutes §
47-212 (a). Section 46a-104, however, is silent with respect
to punitive damages. Accordingly, we therefore look to the
common law, other related statutes, and the circumstances
surrounding its enactment for further guidance.
consider case law with respect to statutory interpretation
concerning statutory punitive damage awards in Connecticut,
beginning with our decision in Ames v.
Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, supra, 267 Conn.
524. In Ames, we considered whether an award of
attorney's fees and punitive damages fell outside the
indemnification provisions of General Statutes (Rev.
to 2003) § 14-52 (b). Id., 526. In
Ames, a plaintiff sought damages for the unlawful
repossession of a vehicle under General Statutes §
52-264, as well as attorney's fees under the Connecticut
Unfair Trade Practices Act, General Statutes § 42-110a
et seq. Id., 526-27. The defendant failed to appear,
and the trial court rendered a default judgment, awarding
treble damages and attorney's fees to the plaintiff.
Id. The defendant, however, went out of business
prior to satisfying the judgment. Id., 527.As a
result, the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles invoked the surety
bond posted by the defendant pursuant to § 14-52.
Id. The plaintiff subsequently claimed that the
surety bond should have been used to satisfy the judgment,
including the punitive damages and attorney's fees.
as to the award for attorney's fees, we held that
attorney's fees were not compensable under § 14-52,
because allowing such damages would be in derogation of the
common-law American Rule that, absent a contractual or
statutory exception, attorney's fees are not allowed to
the successful party. Id., 532-33. We observed that
§ 14-52 was devoid of any express language authorizing
an award of attorney's fees, and as such, we declined to
imply attorney's fees under the statute. Id.,
533. Next, we extended that attorney's fee reasoning to
our analysis of whether the plaintiff was entitled to recover
punitive damages under § 14-52. Id., 536.
Citing both DeMilo v. West Haven, 189 Conn.
671, 675-76, 458 A.2d 362 (1983), and Alaimo v.
Royer, 188 Conn. 36, 43, 448 A.2d 207 (1982), we
concluded that ‘‘[a]n award of multiple damages .
. . is an extraordinary remedy that is available only when
the legislature expressly provides for such damages by
statute. . . . Accordingly, as with attorney's fees, we
require explicit statutory language to support an award of
punitive damages. Put simply, just as the legislature knows
how to authorize an award of attorney's fees when it
wishes to do so . . . it also knows how to authorize an award
of punitive damages.'' (Citations omitted.) Ames
v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, supra, 267
Conn. 536. Thus, because § 14-52 did not include express
statutory language to support an award of punitive damages,
we declined to imply such damages. Id.
applying the statutory interpretation approach utilized in
Ames, we note that on its face, § 46a-104 does
not expressly authorize an award of punitive damages, but
rather, authorizes ‘‘legal and equitable relief .
. . .'' To construe this language as
encompassing punitive damages without expressly stating as
much, as the plaintiff advocates, would be inconsistent with
our approach to the statutory construction within
Ames, in which we required, at least as a default
rule, express statutory authorization for statutory punitive
damages as a form of relief.
there is no extratextual evidence that would cause us to
consider departing from the approach to statutory
interpretation embodied in Ames. With respect to the
legislative intent, the plaintiff contends that, because the
act is the state counterpart to Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.,
§ 46a-104 is remedial in nature, and as such, punitive
damages are allowable to further the act's broader
purpose of ending discrimination; however, a review of the
legislative history behind § 46a-104 reveals no
legislative intent to allow for punitive damages as a remedy
for employment discrimination. Rather, the stated intent of
the provision was to help alleviate the backlog of cases at
the commission. See 34 H.R. Proc., Pt. 23, 1991 Sess., p.
8909, remarks of Representative Joseph Adamo
(‘‘[T]he commission is very much backed up and
has thousands of cases pending before it. What this basically
does is if there's a case that needs- someone feels
should have immediate action, it would give them the
opportunity [to] seek a release from the [commission] and go
directly to the court for the appropriate action.'').
Thus, it appears that the legislature deemed the remedies
expressly authorized in the act, including back pay,
compensatory damages, attorney's fees, and costs, to be
sufficient to carry out its remedial purpose.
§ 46a-104 in conjunction with related human rights
statutes further supports declining to imply authority to
award punitive damages in this case. Specifically, the
legislature expressly authorized punitive damages in other
human rights statutes, but did not do so within§
46a-104, and, thus, reading § 46a-104to allow punitive
damages despite the fact that it does not explicitly
authorize such damages would render those express
authorizations for punitive damages superfluous.
‘‘It is a basic tenet of statutory construction
that the legislature [does] not intend to enact meaningless
provisions. . . . Because [e]very word and phrase [of a
statute] is presumed to have meaning . . . [a statute] must
be construed, if possible, such that no clause, sentence or
word is superfluous, void or insignificant.''
(Internal quotation marks omitted.) Neighborhood Assn.,
Inc. v. Limberger, 321 Conn. 29, 38-39, 136
A.3d 581 (2016). A reading of the act and related statutes
reveals a multitude of instances in which the legislature
expressly provided for punitive damages as a form of
relief.General Statutes (Supp. 2016) §
46a-89 (b) (1), for example, not only provides a procedure
that the commission may follow to seek punitive damages in a
civil case, but also expressly authorizes punitive damages
awards for violations of General Statutes § 46a-64
(discriminatory public accommodations), General Statutes
§ 46a-64c (discriminatory housing practices), General
Statutes § 46a-81d (sexual orientation public
accommodations discrimination), and General Statutes §
46a-81e (sexual orientation housing
discrimination). The legislature did not, however,
include such language authorizing awards of punitive damages
in § 46a-104. See McCoy v. Commissioner of
Public Safety, 300 Conn. 144, 155, 12 A.3d 948 (2011)
(‘‘[o]ur case law is clear . . . that when the
legislature chooses to act, it is presumed to know how to
draft legislation consistent with its intent and to know of
all other existing statutes and the effect that its action or
nonaction will have upon any one of them'' [internal
quotation marks omitted]).
acknowledge the plaintiff's argument that the legislature
did not expressly exclude punitive damages in the act or in
related human rights statutes, including §
46a-104. The other statutes upon which the
plaintiff relies are inconsistent with those more closely
related to § 46a-104. Thus, in the human rights context,
the legislature expressly authorized punitive damages when it
intended for that type of relief to be afforded. To read
§ 46a-104 to allow for awards of punitive damages when
the statute does not expressly authorize those damages would
be inconsistent with the rest of the act and related
the plaintiff's reliance on Title VII and other federal
laws is unavailing. We have recognized that our legislature
intended, in general, to make the act complement the
provisions of Title VII. See, e.g., Commission on Human
Rights&Opportunities v. Echo Hose
Ambulance, 322 Conn. 154, 160, 140 A.3d 190 (2016).
Prior to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1991,
parties claiming employment discrimination under Title VII
were not entitled to compensatory or punitive damages. See
Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S.
244, 252, 114 S.Ct. 1483, 128 L.Ed.2d 229 (1994). Congress,
however, specifically amended Title VII by enacting the Civil
Rights Act of 1991 to provide for compensatory and
punitive damages. Id., 247. Despite Congress
taking affirmative steps to provide expressly for punitive
damages, the Connecticut legislature has not yet followed
suit. Had the legislature intended for § 46a-104 to
provide for statutory punitive damages, it could have amended
the state statute to reflect the changes to its federal
counterpart, and remains free to do so.
in light of Ames v.Commissioner of Motor
Vehicles, supra, 267 Conn. 524, and a close reading of
the text of § 46a-104 in relation to other related human
rights statutes, we conclude that § 46a-104 does not
authorize an award of punitive damages in employment
discrimination cases. Accordingly, the Appellate Court