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Frauenglass & Associates, LLC v. Enagbare

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 7, 2017

FRAUENGLASS AND ASSOCIATES, LLC
v.
HELEN ENAGBARE

          Argued: September 13, 2017

          Helen Enagbare, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Lloyd Frauenglass, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Lavine and Kahn, Js. [*]

         Syllabus

         The plaintiff law firm brought this action against the defendant for, inter alia, breach of contract, seeking to recover unpaid legal fees for the plaintiff's representation of the defendant in a prior dissolution proceeding. The trial court rendered judgment for the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed to this court, which affirmed the judgment. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed motions seeking postjudgment interest and attorney's fees from the date of the underlying judgment through the date of payment in full. The trial court granted the plaintiff's motions, and the defendant appealed to this court. She claimed, inter alia, that the trial court improperly failed to consider newly discovered evidence that the underlying judgment had been obtained by fraud, and that the plaintiff and its attorney, W, committed fraud by fabricating invoices and tampering with evidence. Held that the defendant's claims regarding the attorney's fees charged by the plaintiff in the underlying matter constituted an impermissible collateral attack on the underlying judgment: although the plaintiff's motions for attorney's fees and post judgment interest were the subject of the proceedings before the trial court, the defendant failed to challenge the propriety of the court's award of attorney's fees and statutory interest to the plaintiff, which was the subject of this appeal, and, instead, focused on the plaintiff's conduct in the underlying matter, namely, the attorney's fees charged by the plaintiff for its services provided to the defendant in the underlying dissolution case, and because that matter had been decided in favor of the plaintiff at both the trial and appellate levels, the defendant's arguments could not be addressed or ruled on by the trial court, nor could they be considered by this court, which would have constituted an improper collateral attack on the judgment; moreover, this court declined to consider the defendant's allegations of newly discovered evidence of fraudulent conduct by the plaintiff and W, as those allegations pertained primarily to the legal fees in the underlying action, the defendant did not file a motion to open the judgment in that action on the basis of fraud so as to place the issue of newly discovered evidence of fraud before the trial court, and, to the extent that the defendant claimed, for the first time on appeal, that W's legal fees were fraudulent, this court declined to consider that claim as well.

         Procedural History

         Action to recover damages for, inter alia, breach of contract, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the defendant filed a counterclaim; thereafter, the matter was referred to Edward G. McAnaney, attorney fact finder, who filed a report recommending judgment for the plaintiff on the complaint and on the counterclaim; subsequently, the court, Hon. Richard M. Rittenband, judge trial referee, rendered judgment in accordance with the fact finder's report, from which the defendant appealed to this court, which affirmed the trial court's judgment; thereafter, the court, Elgo, J., granted the plaintiff's motions for attorney's fees and postjudgment interest, and the defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         In Frauenglass & Associates, LLC v. Enagbare, 149 Conn.App. 103, 88 A.3d 1246, cert. denied, 314 Conn. 927, 101 A.3d 273 (2014), this court affirmed the judgment of the trial court awarding the plaintiff, Frauenglass & Associates, LLC, $33, 189.97 for unpaid legal fees and interest (underlying action) for its representation of the defendant, Helen Enagbare. Following the defendant's unsuccessful appeal, the plaintiff sought postjudgment interest and attorney's fees. On May 5, 2015, the court awarded the plaintiff $17, 270 in attorney's fees for the underlying action, $11, 797.50 in appellate attorney's fees and statutory interest of 10 percent from the date of judgment, August 24, 2012, through the date of payment in full.

         The self-represented defendant appeals from the award of attorney's fees and interest. Specifically, she claims that the court improperly failed to consider (1) newly discovered evidence that the judgment had been obtained by fraud, (2) evidence that the plaintiff's attorney, Robert H. Weinstein, committed a fraud by fabricating invoices and tampering with evidence, (3) her claim of a violation of General Statutes § 53a-155 (a)[1] and (4) that the plaintiff's conduct violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), § 42-110a et seq. We conclude that the defendant's arguments in the present action constitute an improper collateral attack on the judgment in the underlying action and that she failed to challenge the propriety of the May 5, 2015 award of attorney's fees and statutory interest. Last, her allegations of evidence of newly discovered fraud were not raised properly before the trial court and cannot be considered for the first time on appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the resolution of this appeal. The defendant had retained the plaintiff to represent her in a marital dissolution and child custody case. Frauenglass & Associates, LLC v. Enagbare, supra, 149 Conn.App. 106. In October, 2008, the defendant signed a retainer agreement and paid $7780 to the plaintiff. Id. Approximately four months later, the defendant terminated the services of the plaintiff, and, at that time, owed the plaintiff $21, 551.93 for legal fees and costs.[2] Id., 107. The plaintiff initiated the action that underlies this appeal. In that action, the trial court, Hon. Richard M. Rittenband, judge trial referee, rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $21, 551.93 plus $11, 638.04 in interest, for a total of $33, 189.97. Id., 108-109.

         On August 28, 2012, the plaintiff filed motions for its own counsel fees in prosecuting the underlying action and for postjudgment interest, which are the subject of this appeal. In the meantime, on August 27, 2012, the defendant filed an appeal from the underlying action, raising four issues. Id., 104. On April1, 2014, we affirmed the judgment of the court in the underlying action. Id., 103. On April 22, 2014, the plaintiff filed a motion pursuant to General Statutes § 37-3a for interest from August 24, 2012, the date of the underlying judgment, through the date of payment in full. On that same day, the plaintiff also filed a motion seeking appellate attorney's fees.

         The court, Elgo, J., held a hearing on the pending motions for attorney's fees and postjudgment interest on February 17, 2015. At that hearing, Weinstein introduced into evidence the retainer agreement and noted that it provided for interest and collection costs, including reasonable attorney's fees. Weinstein subsequently testified that he was seeking $17, 270 for his trial work and $11, 797.50 for his ...


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