March 8, 2017
A. Colarossi, for the appellant (named defendant).
Richard C. Buturla, for the appellee (plaintiff).
Lavine, Alvord and Beach, Js.
plaintiff town brought two actions seeking to foreclose
municipal tax liens on two parcels of real property owned by
the defendant L. After L was defaulted for failure to appear
in both actions, the trial court granted in part the
town's motions for judgments of strict foreclosure and
rendered judgments of foreclosure by sale. Thereafter, L
filed an appearance in both actions and motions to open the
judgments, claiming, inter alia, that he did not remember
receiving service of process. The trial court effectively
denied the motions to open, but extended the sale date, and L
appealed to this court, claiming that the trial court
improperly failed to open the judgments on the merits.
Specifically, L claimed, as required by the statute (§
52-212 [a]) governing the opening of a judgment rendered on a
default, both that a good defense existed at the time that
the judgments were rendered, and that he was prevented by
mistake, accident or other reasonable cause from presenting a
defense because his business records had been destroyed by a
fire, which affected his ability to gather records necessary
to file appearances, and because he was under the mistaken
belief that the town had abandoned the foreclosure actions.
Held that the trial court did not abuse its
discretion in denying the motions to open, L having failed to
provide the court with any sufficient reason for not filing
appearances until years after the entry of the defaults; the
court reasonably could have found that L's failure to
appear in the actions until two months after the judgments
were rendered resulted from his own negligence, not as a
result of accident, mistake or other reasonable cause, as L
did not file his appearances until more than four years after
a fire destroyed his business records, the fire did not occur
until approximately five months after service and after the
defaults had entered, and, thus, the court reasonably could
have concluded that even if L had been under the impression
that the town was not pursuing the foreclosure actions during
a period of time after the defaults had entered, L did not
have reasonable cause to fail to file appearances prior to
the defaults; moreover, this court having concluded that L
failed to demonstrate that he was prevented by mistake,
accident or other reasonable cause from presenting a defense,
it was not necessary to address his claim that a good defense
existed at the time that the judgments were rendered, as a
party seeking to open a default judgment must make both
required showings pursuant to § 52-212 (a), and the
failure to satisfy either requirement is fatal to a motion to
to foreclose municipal tax liens on certain real property
owned by the named defendant, and for other relief, brought
to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Fairfield,
where the named defendant et al. were defaulted; thereafter,
the court, Hon. Alfred J. Jennings, judge trial
referee, granted the plaintiff's motions for judgments of
strict foreclosure and rendered judgments of foreclosure by
sale; subsequently, the court, Hon. William B. Rush,
judge trial referee, denied the named defendant's motions
to open the judgments and rendered judgments of foreclosure
by sale; thereafter, the court, Hon. William B.
Rush, judge trial referee, denied the named
defendant's motions for alteration or clarification, and
the named defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.
defendant, Wayne N. LeBlanc, appeals from the judgments of the
trial court denying his motions to open the judgments of
foreclosure by sale. He claims that the court erred in
denying the relief sought in his motions to open. We affirm
the judgments of the trial court.
following facts and procedural history are relevant to our
resolution of this appeal. In July, 2011, the plaintiff, the
town of Stratford, commenced a municipal tax lien foreclosure
action against the defendant in an effort to collect payment
of outstanding real estate taxes levied on the
defendant's property on Sunset Avenue in Stratford. The
plaintiff also brought a municipal tax lien foreclosure
action against the defendant, seeking to collect outstanding
real estate taxes and sewer use charges for the
defendant's property on Old South Avenue in Stratford.
The actions have similar procedural histories. In both
actions, the marshal's returns of service, dated July 19,
2011, indicated that she had served the defendant in hand.
November 8, 2011, the plaintiff filed motions for default for
failure to appear against the defendant in the foreclosure
actions. The court granted the motions on November 23,
2011.On November 19, 2015, the plaintiff filed motions for
judgments of strict foreclosure, stating a tax arrearage of
$43, 538.02 on the Sunset Avenue property and $82, 581.73 on
the Old South Avenue property. On November 25, 2015,
Southport Secured Lending Fund, LLC, another defendant in the
actions; see footnote 1 of this opinion; moved for judgments
of foreclosure by sale instead of judgments of strict
foreclosure. On December 7, 2015, the court rendered
judgments of foreclosure by sale with a sale date of March 5,
February, 2016, the defendant filed an appearance in both
actions. The defendant filed motions to open the judgments in
February, 2016. In the defendant's motions to open, he
stated that, although he did not dispute that the foreclosure
actions were commenced in 2011, he did not remember receiving
service of process. He further stated in his motions to open
that he operated a salvage yard under the name Kramer's
Recycling Used Auto Parts & Auto Body, Inc.
(Kramer's), on two contiguous parcels in Stratford, one
of which is the Sunset Avenue property, and that a fire
occurred at Kramer's some time after November 23, 2011.
He further stated in his motions to open that an escrow
agreement had been entered into between him, the plaintiff,
and other parties, in October, 2013, wherein the defendant
would pay, from the insurance proceeds received as a result
of the fire, $40, 000 to the plaintiff for past taxes due.
The escrow agreement that was attached to the motions to open
specified that ‘‘[t]he payments to each party are
not intended to represent a complete satisfaction of debts
owed to each party . . . .'' The defendant and his
counsel both filed affidavits in support of the motions to
open in which they attested to the occurrence of the fire,
and the defendant's affidavit further specified that the
fire occurred in December, 2011.
March 1, 2016, the court held a hearing on the motions to
open. The court stated at the hearing that it denied the
motions to open,  but it extended the ...