Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United Amusement and Vending Co. v. Sabia

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

February 6, 2018


          Argued October 25, 2017

          Joel Z. Green, with whom, on the brief, was Linda Pesce Laske, for the appellant (defendant).

          David Eric Ross, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Alvord, Prescott and Lavery, Js.


          LAVERY, J.

         In this action for breach of contract arising out of a commercial lease, the defendant, Daniel Sabia, appeals, following a trial to the court, from the judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff, United Amusements & Vending Company, on the plaintiff's single count complaint. The trial court, Hon. Edward F. Stodolink, judge trial referee, awarded $15, 000 in damages. The defendant claims on appeal that the trial court (1) failed to find the contract unenforceable based on the defendant's special defenses of mistake and duress; (2) awarded damages based on unconscionable provisions of the contract; and (3) awarded damages inconsistent with the contract and evidence. We agree with the defendant's third claim. Accordingly, we reverse in part the judgment of the court and remand the case for a hearing in damages. We otherwise affirm the court's judgment.

         The following facts, which the trial court reasonably could have found, and procedural history are pertinent to our decision. Around September, 2012, the plaintiff's president, Jonathan Dentz, contacted the defendant to arrange a meeting to discuss a possible business relationship between the parties. Dentz then met with the defendant on September 9, 2012, at the South Side Cafe´ in Torrington (bar), which the defendant owns through a limited liability company. The two discussed the possibility of the plaintiff leasing equipment to the defendant for use in the bar, including a video game machine, dart machines, an automated teller machine (ATM), pool tables, and a jukebox. The defendant already had similar equipment in the bar, but was not under contract with his then current vendor. Dentz went over the standard contract the plaintiff used, and the two came to an agreement on the terms for revenue sharing. The defendant inquired as to an advance on the commissions that would be due. Upon learning that the defendant was earning about $500 per month from his current vendor, Dentz agreed to advance $6000 to the defendant.

         Dentz left the bar and drew up the contract. The next day, one of the plaintiff's other employees went to the bar with the contract and an advance commission check. The defendant signed the contract on September 10, 2012, and accepted the check. The plaintiff then purchased the equipment pursuant to the contract from third parties.

         The purchased equipment was never installed at the bar. About three weeks after the contract was signed, Dentz attempted to call the defendant and left multiple messages, but received no response. Then, in October, 2012, the defendant mailed the uncashed commission check to the plaintiff. The plaintiff sent a demand letter on November 2, 2012, informing the defendant that it believed the defendant had breached the contract, and that it would seek damages if the defendant did not settle the matter within seven days.

         The plaintiff filed a breach of contract action on December 5, 2012, seeking damages, costs of suit, attorney's fees, and interest. In his answer, the defendant admitted signing the contract, but denied defaulting on the agreement. After a trial on July 22, 2015, the court awarded the plaintiff $15, 000 in damages, $5000 in attorney's fees, and $687.48 in costs. At the plaintiff's request, the court vacated the award of attorney's fees on May 10, 2016, because the parties had agreed at trial to address attorney's fees after trial. The defendant appealed. We will set forth additional facts as necessary.

         As a threshold issue, we must address whether this appeal was taken from a final judgment, as the award of attorney's fees was vacated and is still pending. In Paranteau v. DeVita, 208 Conn. 515, 523, 544 A.2d 634 (1988), our Supreme Court promulgated a bright line rule that ‘‘a judgment on the merits is final for purposes of appeal even though the recoverability or amount of attorney's fees for the litigation remains to be determined.'' Although Paranteau itself concerned statutory attorney's fees under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, its holding has been applied to other attorney's fees awards. See Hylton v. Gunter, 313 Conn. 472, 484-85, 97 A.3d 970 (2014) (applying Paranteau rule to punitive damages); Benvenuto v. Mahajan, 245 Conn. 495, 501, 715 A.2d 743 (1998) (applying Paranteau rule to strict foreclosure case).

         Although our Supreme Court has not addressed contractual attorney's fees outside of dicta or footnotes, this court applied the Paranteau bright line rule in Doyle Group v. Alaskans for Cuddy, 164 Conn.App. 209, 222, 137 A.3d 809, cert. denied, 321 Conn. 924, 138 A.3d 284 (2016), holding that ‘‘regardless of whether the issue of . . . contractual attorney's fees remained outstanding, the [trial] court's . . . judgment was final for purposes of appeal.'' Thus, despite the issue of attorney's fees in the present case being unresolved, the judgment on the breach of contract is a final judgment for purposes of appeal.


         On appeal, the defendant first claims that the trial court failed to find the contract unenforceable based on the defendant's special defenses of mistake and duress.[1]We set forth the relevant standard of review regarding equitable claims. ‘‘The determination of what equity requires in a particular case . . . is a matter for the discretion of the trial court. . . . This court must make every reasonable presumption in favor of the trial court's decision when reviewing a claim of abuse of discretion. . . . Our review of a trial court's exercise of the legal discretion vested in it is limited to the questions of whether the trial court correctly applied the law and could reasonably have reached the conclusion that it did.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) People's United Bank v. Sarno, 160 Conn.App. 748, 754, 125 A.3d 1065 (2015).

         We must first consider whether we have an adequate record for review of the defendant's claim regarding his special defenses. We conclude that we do not. Although the defendant pleaded mistake and duress as special defenses in his answer to the complaint and argued these defenses at trial, the trial court made no findings of fact or any rulings regarding these defenses, nor did the court file a written memorandum of decision or prepare and sign a transcript of an oral ruling. See Practice Book § 64-1 (a). The defendant did not file, in accordance with our rules of practice, a notice with the appellate clerk of the failure of the trial court to file either a written memorandum or a signed transcript. See Practice Book § 64-1 (b). When the defendant later sought an articulation from the court, he only requested articulation regarding damages and attorney's fees, and did not ask the court to address his special defenses. ‘‘As the appellant, the defendant has the burden of providing this court with a record from which this court can review any alleged claims of error. . . . It is not an appropriate function of this court, when presented with an inadequate record, to speculate as to the reasoning of the trial court or to presume error from a silent record.'' (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Village Mortgage Co. v.Veneziano, 175 Conn.App. 59, 72, 167 A.3d 430, cert. denied, 327 Conn. 957, 172 A.3d 205 (2017); see also Practice Book § 61-10 (a) (‘‘[i]t is the responsibility of the appellant to provide an adequate record for review''); Michaels v.Michaels, 163 Conn.App. 837, 844-45, 136 A.3d 1282 (2016) (record inadequate where there was no memorandum of decision or signed transcript, appellant did not file notice pursuant to Practice Book ยง 64-1, and appellant did not seek ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.