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Cathedral Green, Inc. v. Hughes

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

July 18, 2017

CATHEDRAL GREEN, INC.
v.
DOROTHY HUGHES ET AL.

          Argued March 28, 2017

         Procedural History

         Summary process action brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, Housing Session, where the defendant William Moore was defaulted for failure to appear; thereafter, the court, Woods, J., rendered judgment of possession for the plaintiff and stayed execution in accordance with the parties' stipulated agreement; subsequently, the court, Hon. Joseph H. Pellegrino, judge trial referee, granted the plaintiff's request for execution of the judgment and granted an equitable stay of execution to the named defendant, and the named defendant appealed to this court; thereafter, the court, Rubinow, J., granted the named defendant's motion for use and occupancy. Affirmed.

         Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of Hartford, Housing Session, Woods, J. [judgment]; Hon. Joseph H. Pellegrino, judge trial referee [request for execution]; Rubinow, J. [motion for use and occupancy].

          Sally R. Zanger, with whom was Katrina R. Cessna, for the appellant (named defendant).

          James P. Sexton, with whom were Matthew C. Eagan and, on the brief, Michael H. Clinton, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Prescott and Mullins, Js.

         Syllabus

         The plaintiff landlord sought, by way of a summary process action, to obtain possession of an apartment that it had rented to the defendant tenant. The plaintiff and the defendant entered into a stipulated judgment pursuant to which the court rendered a judgment of possession in favor of the plaintiff and a stay of execution. In accordance with the stipulated judgment, the plaintiff agreed to allow the defendant and her minor child to remain in the apartment during the stay provided that, inter alia, the defendant no longer allow the child's father, M, a nonparty to the lease who previously had resided in the apartment and allegedly sold drugs there, to enter the premises, and that the defendant call the police should M enter the premises in the defendant's presence. Subsequently, the plaintiff sought an order of execution on the ground that M was seen on the premises with the defendant's knowledge and acquiescence. The evidence demonstrated that M was in the defendant's apartment and that he was recorded by a security camera following the defendant into the apartment. The trial court granted the plaintiff's request for an order of execution, finding that the defendant wilfully violated the stipulated judgment. On appeal to this court, the defendant claimed that the trial court improperly had relied on facts that were not in evidence or that were not supported by the record, and failed to properly adjudicate the defendant's equitable nonforfeiture defense.

         Held:

1. The defendant failed to demonstrate that the trial court's material factual findings were clearly erroneous: this court could not conclude, in light of its review of the record, that the trial court impermissibly inferred that the plaintiff had encountered problems involving M's presence on the premises or that the stipulation was not entered into in light of those problems; moreover, allowing for all reasonable inferences, the court's description of the events depicted in the photographs from the security camera was not clearly erroneous, and, to the extent that there was any misstatement by the court regarding those events, it was harmless in light of the other undisputed evidence establishing that M was observed in the defendant's apartment with her knowledge and consent and that she never called the police to report his presence.
2. The trial court having applied the three part test established in Fellows v. Martin (217 Conn. 57) for determining whether a defendant is entitled to equitable relief from forfeiture of a tenancy, it recognized and applied the correct legal standard in considering the defendant's equitable nonforfeiture defense.
3. The trial court properly found that the defendant's breach of the stipulated judgment was wilful, the evidence having demonstrated that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily, and deliberately allowed M to be on the premises; the defendant never disputed that she invited M to her apartment, that she initially tried to hide his presence from other residents, and that she knew his presence was in violation of the stipulated judgment, and photographs from the security camera showed the defendant permitting M to enter the premises.

          OPINION

          PRESCOTT, J.

         The present appeal arises from a summary process action that initially was settled in November, 2014, by way of a stipulated judgment. In accordance with that stipulation, the court rendered a judgment of possession in favor of the plaintiff, Cathedral Green, Inc., execution of which it stayed through the end of January, 2017. During the stay, the plaintiff agreed to allow the defendant, Dorothy Hughes, and her minor child to remain in the defendant's apartment provided that, inter alia, the defendant no longer allow William Moore, her child's father and a nonparty to the lease, to have access to the premises, which included both the apartment and the common areas of the property.[1] The defendant now appeals from the trial court's postjudgment ruling of October 5, 2015, in which the court found that the defendant wilfully had violated the terms of the stipulated judgment. As a result, the court ordered execution of the judgment of possession.[2] The defendant claims on appeal that the court improperly (1) relied upon facts that were not in evidence or that were not supported by the record, and (2) failed to adjudicate properly the defendant's equitable nonforfeiture defense.[3] We disagree and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts, which the court either set forth in its decision or are undisputed, and procedural history are relevant to our resolution of the defendant's claims. The defendant is a single mother who resides with her minor daughter in a subsidized apartment that is part of a housing complex, Cathedral Green, owned and operated by the plaintiff. In June, 2014, the plaintiff commenced the underlying action seeking to evict the defendant on the ground that she violated the terms of her lease. In particular, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had allowed Moore to reside in the apartment despite the fact that he was not an authorized occupant under the lease. Further, the plaintiff alleged that Moore had ‘‘been coming and going on several occasions using the defendant's keys to enter the premises and has a lot of visitors meeting him briefly at the premises on several occasions during the day and night to transact illegal drug sales.'' According to the plaintiff, the defendant failed to cure the lease violations after she was notified of them by the plaintiff.

         On November 25, 2014, the date set for the summary process trial, the parties, each of whom was represented by counsel, filed a joint motion for a stipulated judgment, which was accepted by the court, Woods, J. According to the parties' stipulation, the defendant agreed to pay reasonable use and occupancy payments going forward, and to repay $890 in unpaid rent in accordance with a repayment plan the parties agreed to ‘‘work out'' by the end of the following month and to present to the court as a modification of the parties' stipulated agreement. The stipulation also provided that the defendant agreed to abide by all of the terms, rules, and conditions contained in the original lease with the plaintiff except as specifically modified by the terms of the stipulation.

         Of particular relevance to the present appeal, the defendant agreed in the stipulated judgment to the following: ‘‘[S]he shall not allow or permit [Moore] to enter her unit or accompany her in the common areas of the property, including all outside areas and the parking lot. The defendant agrees that [Moore] is a trespasser and both Catholic Family Charities and [the Department of Children and Families] agree that [Moore] should not be allowed on the plaintiff's premises. As such, [the] defendant shall have an affirmative obligation to call the police should he enter the premises or the common areas in her presence. Further, the defendant agrees that if [Moore] is to visit the defendant's minor daughter, the visit or transfer shall occur off of the plaintiff's premises, including the common areas, driveway and parking lots. [The defendant] agrees that [the] plaintiff may treat [Moore] as a trespasser and call the police to keep him off of the premises.'' If the defendant was able to make all payments, as agreed, and to comply with ...


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