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Rutter v. Janis

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

March 6, 2018

CASEY LEIGH RUTTER
v.
ADAM JANIS ET AL. NANCY BEALE, ADMINISTRATRIX (ESTATE OF LINDSEY BEALE)
v.
LUIS MARTINS ET AL. JASON FERREIRA
v.
LUIS MARTINS ET AL.

          Argued October 16, 2017

         Procedural History

         Action, in the first case, to recover damages for personal injuries sustained as a result of the defendants' alleged negligence, and action in the second case, to recover damages for the wrongful death of the plaintiff's decedent as a result of the defendants' alleged negligence, and action in the third case, to recover damages for personal injuries sustained as a result of the defendants' alleged negligence, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Waterbury, where the cases were consolidated; thereafter, the court, Brazzel-Massaro, J., granted the motions for summary judgment filed by the defendant Danbury Fair Hyundai, LLC, in each case and rendered judgments thereon, from which the plaintiff in each case filed separate appeals to this court; subsequently, this court consolidated the appeals. Affirmed.

          James J. Healy, with whom were Joel T. Faxon and Cynthia C. Bott, and, on the brief, Nathan C. Nasser and J. Craig Smith, for the appellants (plaintiff in each case).

          James F. Shields, with whom, on the brief, was David M. Houf, for the appellee (defendant Danbury Fair Hyundai, LLC).

          Keller, Elgo and Bear, Js.

          OPINION

          BEAR, J.

         In these consolidated appeals, [1] a principal issue in each of the cases is the meaning and application of the phrase ‘‘not more than thirty days'' set forth in General Statutes § 14-60 (a).[2] The trial court, in rendering summary judgment in each of the three consolidated cases, from which the plaintiffs have appealed, interpreted that phrase to require the exclusion of May 9, 2013, the date on which a ‘‘Temporary Loan of Motor Vehicles'' agreement (loan agreement) between Luis Mar-tins[3] and the defendant Danbury Fair Hyundai, LLC, was executed, from the computation of that thirty day period.[4] The plaintiffs claim on appeal that the court erred in determining that the loan of a dealer number plate, [5] pursuant to the loan agreement for use on a 2013 Hyundai Veloster automobile that the Martins had purchased, did not exceed the thirty day period set forth in § 14-60 (a). The plaintiffs also claim that the court erred in finding that the defendant fully complied with the requirements of § 14-60 (a), resulting in its protection from liability to the plaintiffs. We disagree, and, accordingly, affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         The following facts, as set forth in the defendant's memoranda of law in support of its motions for summary judgment and in the plaintiffs' memoranda of law in opposition to summary judgment, are undisputed. On May 9, 2013, Luis Martins and his father, Jorge Martins, purchased a 2013 Hyundai Veloster automobile from the defendant. Because the defendant had not received the automobile manufacturer's certificate of origin, the parties could not complete the transfer of Luis Martins' motor vehicle registration from his previous vehicle, a 2007 Jeep Wrangler vehicle, to the new vehicle. The defendant loaned a dealer number plate to Luis Martins while the registration process was pending. The defendant and Luis Martins signed the loan agreement at approximately 7 p.m. on May 9, 2013.

         On June 8, 2013, at approximately 3 p.m., Luis Martins, while driving the Hyundai Veloster automobile, was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Danbury. As a result of the accident, his passengers, Lindsey Beale, Casey Leigh Rutter and Jason Ferreira sustained traumatic injuries; Beale died from her injuries. At the time of the accident, the Hyundai Veloster automobile displayed the dealer number plate belonging to the defendant.

         In separately filed complaints, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant owned or controlled the automobile driven by Luis Martins and was, therefore, liable for any damages resulting from the June 8, 2013 accident. On February 17, 2015, the defendant filed a substantially similar motion for summary judgment in each case, asserting that it was not liable to any of the plaintiffs because the accident occurred ‘‘twenty-nine days and [twenty] hours after the plates were loaned out, and thus well within the thirty day period of time required by Connecticut law.'' Attached as evidence in support of its motion, the defendant included an affidavit from William Sabatini, the chief financial officer of the defendant; a temporary insurance identification card issued to the Martins by Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company for the Hyundai Veloster automobile with an effective date of May 9, 2013; an insurance declaration page for that automobile; copies of the Martins' drivers' licenses; a registration certificate and insurance identification card for Luis Martins' previous vehicle; a completed department of motor vehicles registration form for the 2013 Hyundai Veloster automobile signed by the Martins and dated May 9, 2013; purchase and finance documents relating to the sale of the 2013 Hyundai Veloster automobile, including a manufacturer's certificate of origin dated April 15, 2013; and the signed loan agreement. The plaintiffs filed a substantially similar memorandum of law in each of the cases in opposition to the motions for summary judgment, claiming, inter alia, that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the defendant complied with the requirements of § 14-60 (a), and that the period of the loan agreement exceeded the thirty day time limit set forth in § 14-60 (a) (3). The sole evidence attached to their opposition memoranda was a transcript excerpt from Sabatini's January 6, 2015 deposition.

         On November 27, 2015, the court issued a memorandum of decision rendering summary judgment in favor of the defendant in each of the cases. The court found that the defendant ‘‘satisfied its obligations pursuant to [§ 14-60] in that the Martins provided proof of valid insurance coverage during the dates of May 9, 2013, and June 19, 2013, '' and that the Martins ‘‘had possession of the loaner vehicle for [twenty-nine] days and [twenty] hours at the time of the accident as they were awaiting the pending registration for the new vehicle.'' Accordingly, the court concluded that the defendant complied with § 14-60 and was protected from liability for the accident. These consolidated appeals followed.

         We first set forth our standard governing review of a trial court's decision to grant a motion for summary judgment. ‘‘Practice Book [§ 17-49] provides that summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and any other proof submitted show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. . . . In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the trial court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. . . . The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue [of] material facts which, under applicable principles of substantive law, entitle him to a judgment as a matter of law . . . and the party opposing such a motion must provide an evidentiary foundation to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. . . . A material fact . . . [is] a fact which will make a difference in the result of the case. . . . Finally, the scope of our review of the trial court's decision to grant the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is plenary.'' (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) DiPietro v. Farmington Sports Arena, LLC, 306 Conn. 107, 116, 49 A.3d 951 (2012).

         Additionally, because this appeal involves questions of statutory construction, we set forth our well established principles of statutory interpretation. ‘‘When construing a statute, [o]ur fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature. . . . In other words, we seek to determine, in a reasoned manner, the meaning of the statutory language as applied to the facts of [the] case, including the question of whether the language actually does apply. . . . In seeking to determine that meaning, General Statutes § 1-2z directs us first to consider the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes. If, after examining such text and considering such relationship, the meaning of such text is plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results, extratextual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not be considered.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Energy Marketers Assn. v. Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection, 324 Conn. 362, 372-73, 152 A.3d 509 (2016). ‘‘Statutory interpretation is a question of law, over which our review is plenary.'' Gomes v. Massachusetts Bay Ins. Co., 87 Conn.App. 416, 423, 866 A.2d 704, cert. denied, 273 Conn. 925, 871 A.2d 1031 (2005).

         I

         On appeal, the plaintiffs assert that the court erred in its computation of the days in the § 14-60 (a) (3) thirty day period because it began on May 9, 2013, the day the loan agreement was signed, and not on May 10, 2013, the following day. Because § 14-60 (a) (3) limits the temporary loan of a dealer number plate to ‘‘not more than thirty days in any year, '' the plaintiffs maintain that the defendant is liable to them because the Hyundai Veloster automobile displayed ...


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