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Windsor Federal Savings & Loan Association v. Reliable Mechanical Contractors, LLC

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

August 22, 2017

WINDSOR FEDERAL SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATION
v.
RELIABLE MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS, LLC, ET AL.

          Argued April 13, 2017

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for breach of contract, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the court, Graham, J., granted the plaintiff's application for a prejudgment remedy; thereafter, the defendants were defaulted for failure to plead; subsequently, the complaint was withdrawn as to the defendant Elijah El-Hajj-Bey; thereafter, the court, Graham, J., granted the named defendant's motion to open the default judgment; subsequently, the named defendant was defaulted for failure to disclose assets; thereafter, the court, Graham, J., granted the plaintiff's motion to cite in Elijah El-Hajj-Bey as a defendant; subsequently, the court, Graham, J., granted the named defendant's motion to open the default judgment; thereafter, the defendants filed counterclaims; subsequently, the complaint was withdrawn as to the defendant Elijah El-Hajj-Bey; thereafter, the court, Hon. Richard M. Rittenband, judge trial referee, granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the complaint as to liability only, and granted the plaintiff's motion to dismiss the counterclaims; subsequently, Elijah El-Hajj-Bey appealed to this court, which dismissed the appeal; thereafter, the court, Sheridan, J., denied the motion to be made a party defendant filed by Elijah El-Hajj-Bey, and Elijah El-Hajj-Bey appealed to this court, which dismissed the appeal; subsequently, following a hearing in damages, the court, Elgo, J., granted the plaintiff's motion for judgment and rendered judgment theron, from which the named defendant and Ellijah El-Hajj-Bey appealed to this court. Appeal dismissed in part; reversed; further proceedings.

          John R. Williams, for the appellants (named defendant and et. al.).

          Deborah L. Dorio, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Bear, Js.

         Syllabus

         The plaintiff bank, in 2009, brought this breach of contract action against the defendant R Co. in connection with R Co.'s default on a promissory note it had executed and delivered to the plaintiff, and against the defendant E, the sole owner and operator of R Co., whom the plaintiff claimed had executed and delivered to the plaintiff a commercial guarantee as security for the note. After the defendants were defaulted for failure to plead and to disclose assets, the trial court granted R Co.'s motions to open the defaults, and the defendants filed an answer and a special defense, in which they claimed that the plaintiff had fraudulently induced them to enter into the agreement and that E had never personally guaranteed the loan, and a counterclaim alleging, inter alia, fraud. Thereafter, the complaint was withdrawn as to E. The trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the complaint as to liability only with respect to R Co., and the plaintiff's motion to dismiss the counterclaim as to R Co. Subsequently, at a hearing in damages, the trial court declined E's request to present evidence on behalf of R Co. in light of a previous denial of his request to be made a party defendant. Thereafter, the trial court granted the plaintiff's motion for judgment against R Co. and rendered judgment thereon, from which R Co. and E appealed to this court.

         Held:

         1. Because the plaintiff withdrew its claims against E in May, 2011, and E was no longer a defendant to the plaintiff's complaint when the trial court rendered its final judgment for R Co. on the complaint in February, 2016, E was not aggrieved by that judgment and, therefore, had no standing to appeal from it; moreover, because the judgment of the trial court dismissing the defendants' counterclaim pertained to R Co. only, there was no final judgment on the counterclaim with respect to E, and, therefore, this court lacked jurisdiction over the portion of E's appeal that challenged the trial court's dismissal of the counterclaim.

         2. The trial court improperly granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as against R Co., RCo. having raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the guarantee was signed by E; in response to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, R Co. submitted an affidavit executed by E in which he denied signing the guarantee, as well as portions of the transcript of E's deposition in which E disputed the plaintiff's contention that he had signed the guarantee, and the trial court improperly resolved that contested fact when it found that R Co. had presented no credible opposition to the motion for summary judgment.

         3. R Co. could not prevail on its claim that the trial court improperly dis- missed its counterclaim on the ground that it was barred by the statute of limitations; because, in addition to finding that the counterclaim was barred by the statute of limitations, the trial court also dismissed the counterclaim on the ground of lack of standing by R Co., which R Co. did not challenge on appeal, there still existed an unchallenged ground on which the trial court based its judgment, and, therefore, there was no practical relief that could be afforded R Co. on its statute of limitations claim, and its appeal challenging the dismissal of its counterclaim was dismissed as moot.

          OPINION

          SHELDON, J.

         The defendants, Reliable Mechanical Contractors, LLC (Reliable Mechanical), and its sole member, Elijah El-Hajj-Bey, appeal from the summary judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff, Windsor Federal Savings and Loan Association, on its collection claim, and from the judgment of dismissal of their counterclaims. As to the summary judgment, the defendants claim that the plaintiff failed to prove the nonexistence of any genuine issue of material fact and that it was thus entitled to judgment on its complaint as a matter of law.[1] As to the dismissal of the counterclaims, the defendants argue that the court erred in concluding that their counterclaims were barred by the three year statute of limitations. Because El-Hajj-Bey was not a party to the underlying action at the time final judgment was rendered on the plaintiff's complaint, he does not have standing to appeal from that judgment. Accordingly, we dismiss El-Hajj-Bey's appeal from the summary judgment. As to the dismissal of the counterclaims, that judgment applied only to Reliable Mechanical's counterclaims, not to those advanced by El-Hajj-Bey. There is thus no final judgment on El-Hajj-Bey's ...


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