DREW FRIEDMAN ET AL.
MARIA MARGARITA GOMEZ ET AL.
January 18, 2017
from Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk,
Housing Session, Rodriguez, J.
Frederic S. Brody, with whom was Anne Louise Blanchard, for
the appellants (defendants).
C. Sargent, for the appellee (substitute plaintiff).
Lavine, Alvord and Beach, Js.
defendants, Maria Margarita Gomez, Guillermo Sanchez, Jr.
(Sanchez Jr.), and Eric Sanchez, appeal from the judgment of
the trial court, rendered after a trial to the court, in
favor of the plaintiff Drew Friedman on his summary process
complaint and against the defendants on their special
defenses and counterclaims. On appeal, the defendants claim
that the court (1) improperly limited its jurisdiction when
it concluded that it did not have the authority to determine
title to the subject property, (2) improperly determined that
Guillermo Sanchez, Sr. (Sanchez Sr.), was no longer a party
to this action, and (3) abused its discretion in finding that
the defendants failed to prove that they had an equitable
interest in the subject property. The plaintiff claims that
the defendants' appeal is moot and must be dismissed
because they voluntarily vacated the premises after the
appeal was filed. We conclude that the appeal is not moot,
and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
court, as fact finder, reasonably could have found the
following facts. The plaintiff owned and managed commercial and
residential real estate properties in Westport and Norwalk.
Sanchez Sr. was employed by the plaintiff and was well liked
by him. Gomez and Sanchez Sr. were married, and they lived
with their two children, Sanchez Jr. and Eric Sanchez, in an
apartment in Norwalk. Sanchez Sr. and Gomez wanted to
purchase a home, and they began to save money for that
purpose. The plaintiff, desirous of keeping Sanchez Sr. as an
employee and having available financial resources, offered to
assist by purchasing a two-family dwelling located on Godfrey
Street in Norwalk. The purchase price was $250, 000, and was
paid in cash. The plaintiff took title to the property in his
name by warranty deed recorded in the Norwalk land records on
March 13, 2002.
Sr. contributed $7700 toward the $25, 000 down payment and an
additional $4009.55 in closing costs. The plaintiff's
total contribution to the purchase of the two-family dwelling
totaled $243, 785.60. Sanchez Sr. and the plaintiff had an
understanding that $240, 000 of the amount paid constituted a
loan from the plaintiff to Sanchez Sr., which was to be
repaid in 180 payments at 7.5 percent interest. The first
payment of principal and interest was due May 1, 2002, and
the final payment was due April 1, 2017. The plaintiff
provided Sanchez Sr. with an amortization schedule with
respect to the loan payments. Sanchez Sr. and the plaintiff
further agreed that if Sanchez Sr. made all of the required
payments, the plaintiff would convey title to the subject
property to him upon receipt of the final payment.
Sr. and the defendants occupied the second floor of the
two-family dwelling beginning in March or April of 2002.
Sanchez Sr., acting as the plaintiff's agent, rented the
first floor to various tenants, collected the rent, and
maintained the property. He kept the rent and paid the bills
related to the subject property, including the real estate
taxes. Sanchez Sr. began to make the required payments to the
plaintiff, as set forth in the amortization schedule, but
subsequently fell behind and eventually ceased making any
payments. At the time of trial, the plaintiff's records
indicated that the amount due from Sanchez Sr. was $165,
077.67 in principal and $44, 512.24 in interest. Sanchez Sr.
vacated the property in 2010, but the defendants continued to
reside on the second floor. The defendants made no payments
pursuant to the amortization schedule, nor did they pay the
plaintiff for use and occupancy of the property.
plaintiff served the defendants with a notice to quit on June
6, 2014. The stated reason for the eviction was as follows:
‘‘No right or privilege of possession by one who
formerly had such a right.'' The defendants continued
to reside at the subject property, and the plaintiff
commenced this summary process action on August 22, 2014. A
trial was held in the Housing Session at Norwalk on April 28,
2015. At that time, the plaintiff, Gomez and Sanchez Jr.
testified, and the plaintiff submitted five exhibits.
Although the court ruled at the beginning of the trial that
Sanchez Sr. was no longer a party to the action, the
transcript of the trial reflects that he was in the
courtroom. Further, the plaintiff's counsel stated that
Sanchez Sr. was available to testify if the defendants chose
to call him to the witness stand. Sanchez Sr. was not called
to testify as a witness by either the plaintiff or the
court issued its notice of judgment on April 30, 2015. The
decision provides as follows: ‘‘Judgment for
Plaintiff for Immediate Possession-After Trial. The plaintiff
has proven all of the allegations in [his] complaint dated
October 8, 2014. The defendants have failed to prove [their]
counterclaims of constructive trust in [the] first count,
resulting trust in the second count, promissory estoppel in
the third count, equitable estoppel in the fourth count and
unjust enrichment in the fifth count. Also there is
insufficient evidence to support the special defenses of
estoppel, unclean hands, and ownership by Maria Gomez, as
defined in [General Statutes §] 47a-1 (e).'' On
May 26, 2015, the court issued the following addendum to its
judgment: ‘‘The basis for the court finding after
trial, the defendant failed to prove [the] counterclaims and
special defenses, is the testimony of Maria Gomez is
discredited with regard to her claims.'' This appeal
reaching the merits of the defendants' claims on appeal,
we first must address the plaintiff's claim that the
entire appeal is moot because the defendants voluntarily
vacated the subject premises on May 8, 2015.
‘‘Mootness is a question of justiciability that
must be determined as a threshold matter because it
implicates [a] court's subject matter jurisdiction . . .
. Because courts are established to resolve actual
controversies, before a claimed controversy is entitled to a
resolution on the merits it must be justiciable.
Justiciability requires (1) that there be an actual
controversy between or among the parties to the dispute . . .
(2) that the interests of the parties be adverse . . . (3)
that the matter in controversy be capable of being
adjudicated by judicial power . . . and (4) that the