November 28, 2016
from Superior Court, judicial district of Fairfield, Hon.
Edward F. Stodolink, judge trial referee.)
Nicholas Stanisci, for the appellants (defendants).
E. Butler, for the appellee (plaintiff).
Lavine, Alvord and Harper, Js.
defendants, Dominic Posta and Leticia Posta, appeal from the
judgment of the trial court, rendered after a trial to the
court, in favor of the plaintiff, Edward Hammer. After
rendering a default judgment against Leticia Posta for her
failure to appear, the court found Dominic Posta liable to
the plaintiff under General Statutes §
22-357 for injuries caused by the defendants'
dog and awarded the plaintiff $30, 910.30 in damages and
court costs. On appeal, the defendants claim that the
court improperly (1) denied the defendant's request for a
jury trial, and (2) relied on the arguments of counsel rather
than reviewing the medical records that had been admitted as
evidence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
court reasonably could have found the following
facts. On May 19, 2012, the plaintiff was walking
his leashed dog, Odie, a twenty-one pound miniature
schnauzer, when the defendants' dog, Sarge, a
seventy-pound pit bull, came across the street and charged at
the plaintiff's dog. The plaintiff grabbed Odie and
placed him on his shoulder in an attempt to keep Sarge from
harming him. Sarge jumped up and latched his teeth onto
Odie's left hind leg, at the base of his tail and back.
Although the plaintiff tried to pry Sarge off Odie, he was
unsuccessful and was supporting the full weight of both dogs
during the attack. Hearing the commotion, a neighbor came
over to assist the plaintiff and opened the gate to allow the
plaintiff and Odie to enter, thereby separating them from
plaintiff took Odie to the VCA Shoreline Veterinary Referral
and Emergency Center, where he was treated for his injuries.
The veterinary bill totaled $643. The plaintiff, although not
bitten by the defendants' dog, suffered injuries to his
thumb and back. His medical expenses totaled $3637.45.
Additionally, the plaintiff was unable to work for a short
period of time. On October 18, 2012, the plaintiff commenced
this action against the defendants seeking monetary damages.
Although the plaintiff initially claimed his case for a jury
trial, he withdrew his jury claim on October 6, 2014.
defendant was a self-represented party until February 17,
2015, at which time counsel filed an appearance on his
behalf. That same day, the defendant's counsel filed a
motion to continue the date of the scheduled trial from
February 18 to April 16, 2015. The court, Bellis,
J., denied the defendant's motion for a continuance.
Although there is nothing in the record regarding a further
request for a continuance, both parties agree that the
defendant's counsel made a verbal request for a
continuance of the trial date on February 18, 2015, which the
court granted until February 19, 2015. Again, although
unsupported by the record, the parties agree that the
defendant also verbally requested a jury trial on February
18, 2015, which was denied by the court.
trial proceeded on February 19, 2015. The court, Hon.
Edward F. Stodolink, judge trial referee, heard
testimony from the plaintiff, the defendant, the Stratford
animal control officer, the police officer who responded to
the plaintiff's 911 call on the day of the incident, and
two neighbors. Additionally, fourteen exhibits were submitted
into evidence by the plaintiff, which included the police
incident report, the plaintiff's medical records and
bills, the veterinary report and bill for Odie's
treatment, and photographs of Odie's injuries. At the
beginning of the trial, the plaintiff's counsel requested
that the court take judicial notice of the plaintiff's
life expectancy of 40.4 years. The court did so, after
confirming that the defendant's counsel had no objection.
After the evidence had concluded, the court heard brief
closing arguments by both counsel and then rendered its
judgment from the bench.
court's oral decision was as follows:
‘‘Having heard the-the testimony of the various
witnesses, I've-and through counsel the various exhibits
and reports. I did not read them, but I'm sure that they
were recited properly by the counsel. Based on that and the
evidence I've heard or-or the arguments, I will enter a
judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against the
defendant.'' The court then awarded economic damages
covering the plaintiff's medical bills, the veterinary
bills and the plaintiff's lost wages in the amount of
respect to noneconomic damages, the court stated:
‘‘According to the testimony of the plaintiff and
the-the recital of the injuries, as the hospital records
show, and-and the fact that the [plaintiff] has a life
expectancy of forty years and it's indicated that he has
continuing chronic pain to the thumb and also to his back, I
will award him $25, 000 . . . . So, the total is $30, 080.45
plus costs.'' The defendant filed postjudgment
motions for a new trial and for remittitur, which were denied
by the court after a hearingon May 28, 2015.
23, 2015, the defendants' appellate counsel filed
separate appearances on behalf of Dominic Posta and Leticia
Posta. On July 30, 2015, the defendants filed this appeal.
The defendants filed a motion for articulation on November 2,
2015, requesting that the trial court articulate, inter alia,
the evidence it relied on in determining that the plaintiff
suffered permanent injuries. The court, in its response to
the motion, stated: ‘‘The injuries to the
plaintiff's left thumb and low back that occurred on May