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JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Cam

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

May 2, 2017


          Argued January 18, 2017

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Stamford-Norwalk, Povodator, J.

          Denise A. Krall, with whom, on the brief, was Joseph J. Cessario, for the appellant (named defendant).

          Peter R. Meggers, with whom, on the brief, was Brian D. Rich, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Lavine, Alvord and Beach, Js.


          LAVINE, J.

         The defendant Eugene A. Cam[1] appeals from the judgment of strict foreclosure claiming that the trial court erred when it concluded that a settlement agreement he had entered into with the plaintiff, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., permitted the plaintiff to pay the defendant a certain sum of money within a ‘‘reasonable time'' of the payment deadline provided in the agreement.[2] We affirm the judgment of the court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of the defendant's claim. On February 11, 2004, the defendant executed and delivered a note in the amount of $900, 000 to Washington Mutual Bank, FA, the plaintiff's predecessor in interest, plus a mortgage deed securing property located at 99 Por-chuck Road in Greenwich. On March 9, 2009, the plaintiff commenced a foreclosure action against the defendant, alleging that the defendant had defaulted on his payment obligations. The defendant asserted four counterclaims, including a claim that he had been ‘‘damaged'' when the plaintiff ‘‘unlawfully removed or damaged'' his personal effects, and, as a result, wrongfully ‘‘deprived [the defendant] of his property'' and ‘‘left [his residence] in an uninhabitable state.''

         Prior to trial, the parties reached a settlement agreement to resolve their respective claims. On September 17, 2014, the defendant executed the agreement, which had been reduced to writing (agreement). The agreement provided that the plaintiff was to pay the defendant a certain sum of money, paying one half of the sum ‘‘within [thirty] days of execution of this Agreement'' and the other half ‘‘within ten days of title vesting to [the plaintiff].'' In exchange, the defendant agreed to stipulate to a judgment of strict foreclosure, which provided that the defendant would vacate the property on or before October 28, 2014. The agreement did not contain a ‘‘time is of the essence'' clause or any equivalent language that suggested that payment by the plaintiff to the defendant was time critical or that time was material to the agreement.

         On October 1, 2014, the plaintiff filed a motion for judgment of strict foreclosure. On October 7, 2014, the parties appeared before the court to enter the stipulated judgment, but the court, sua sponte, declined to accept the stipulated judgment because it was concerned that Narragansett had not been properly served. See footnote 1 of this opinion. The plaintiff served Narragansett and filed a motion for default for failure to appear against Narragansett in January, 2015, and the motion was granted on February 6, 2015.

         In February, 2015, the parties engaged in e-mail correspondence regarding the performance dates provided for in the agreement in light of the fact that the court had declined to enter judgment on the motion for judgment of strict foreclosure. The defendant did not demand that the plaintiff make payment, state how he would be negatively affected by a late payment, or assert that the plaintiff had breached the agreement because it did not pay him by the established October 17, 2014 deadline. In March, 2015, however, the defendant informed the plaintiff that he would not move forward with the agreement.

         On May 7, 2015, the plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the agreement. In the motion, the plaintiff argued that the agreement was clear and unambiguous, but because the entry of the stipulated judgment had been delayed by the court when it continued the matter on October 7, 2014, the performance dates in the agreement were no longer applicable. It contended that the performance dates should be modified to reflect the current circumstances, and the court should enforce the agreement with the amended dates. The defendant filed an objection, arguing, among other things, that the plaintiff had breached a material provision of the agreement when it did not pay him 50 percent of the settlement within thirty days after he executed the agreement, i.e., October 17, 2014. The court denied the motion without prejudice, [3] and the plaintiff filed a renewed motion to enforce the agreement, to which the defendant objected.

         On September 29, 2015, the court granted the plaintiff's renewed motion to enforce. The court found that the parties had entered into an enforceable agreement. It also found that ‘‘there [did] not appear to be any provision in the agreement that made enforcement or execution of its terms time-critical, in a time is of the essence or equivalent sense'' and noted that ‘‘in the absence of an indication that timing is critical, reasonableness as to timing is to be presumed.''[4] It found that although the agreement required the parties to take sequential steps, ‘‘there is nothing in the agreement that makes performance in 2015 any less effective at meeting the expectations of the parties . . . .'' The court also noted that on January 13, 2015, months after the first payment was due, the defendant requested a continuance for a scheduled status conference, indicating to the court that the defendant acknowledged that the agreed upon dates needed to be adjusted and that he intended to consummate the agreement. This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the defendant asserts that the court erred in finding that the agreement was enforceable. Specifically, he claims that the court erred in finding that the plaintiff was required to make payment to the defendant within a ‘‘reasonable time'' following the execution of the agreement rather than strictly within the thirty day deadline. He argues that because the agreement clearly and unambiguously provided that the plaintiff must make payment within thirty days of its execution, which the plaintiff failed to do, the court ‘‘erroneously interpreted the . . . agreement as lacking any timing provisions relevant to the expectations of the parties.'' He contends that even though there was no ‘‘time is of the essence'' clause in the ...

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