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Altama, LLC v. Napoli Motors, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 17, 2018

ALTAMA, LLC
v.
NAPOLI MOTORS, INC., ET AL.

          Argued January 23, 2018

         Procedural History

         Summary process action brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven, Housing Session, where the defendant John Doe et al. were defaulted for failure to appear; thereafter, the matter was tried to the court, Avallone, J.; judgment for the plaintiff, from which the named defendant appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Michael J. Ajello, for the appellant (named defendant).

          John-Henry M. Steele, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Sheldon, Prescott and Elgo, Js.

          OPINION

          PRESCOTT, J.

         In this commercial summary process action, the defendant Napoli Motors, Inc., appeals from the judgment of possession, rendered after a trial to the court, in favor of the plaintiff, Altama, LLC.[1] On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly (1) rendered judgment against it on a theory of liability that was not alleged in the complaint, and (2) concluded that the lease had terminated for lapse of time. We disagree with the defendant and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following procedural history and facts, as found by the trial court in its memorandum of decision, are relevant to the resolution of this appeal. The defendant operates a car dealership. On or about June 1, 2011, the defendant executed a written agreement to lease the premises located at 50 South Washington Street in Milford from Leonard Wisniewski G.R.A.T., which is a trust, for a term of five years, until June 1, 2016. The plaintiff is the successor in interest to that trust, and became the owner of the property subject to the lease on December 3, 2014.

         Paragraph 21 of the lease included an option to renew the lease for an additional five year period. The same paragraph provided that, in order to exercise its option to renew, the defendant needed to notify the plaintiff of its intent to do so, in writing, 180 days prior to the expiration of the initial term of the lease. The defendant did not provide any written notice of its intent to renew the lease by the applicable deadline.

         On May 26, 2016, the plaintiff served the defendant with a notice to quit possession of the premises for lapse of time. On June 2, 2016, the plaintiff initiated this summary process action against the defendant. In its revised complaint dated June 28, 2016, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had been served with a notice to quit possession but still remained on the premises. The notice to quit and the lease were referenced in paragraphs 3 and 5 of the revised complaint and were attached thereto.

         In its answer to the plaintiff's revised complaint, the defendant admitted the allegations contained in paragraphs 5 and 6. Those paragraphs alleged that the defendant had received the notice to quit on May 26, 2016, that the time given in the notice had expired, and that the defendant had not vacated the premises.[2] The defendant also pleaded two special defenses. Specifically, the defendant claimed that it had properly executed its option to renew the lease and that forfeiture of the right to occupy the premises would cause it disproportionate injury.

         On August 18, 2016, the matter was tried to the court. At trial, the plaintiff submitted a stipulation of facts establishing that (1) the plaintiff is a limited liability company organized and existing under the laws of Connecticut, (2) the plaintiff became the owner in fee simple of the subject property on December 3, 2014, and took title subject to the terms of the lease, and (3) since that time, all dealings regarding the lease had been between the plaintiff and the defendant. The lease also was admitted into evidence. In addition, the plaintiff asked the court to take notice of the defendant's judicial admissions in its answer to the allegations in the revised complaint, where it pleaded that it had served the defendant with a notice to quit possession demanding that it vacate the subject premises on or before June 1, 2016, and that the defendant had failed to do so. The plaintiff then rested its case.

         After the plaintiff rested, the defendant moved for a directed verdict on the ground that the revised complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The defendant argued to the court that the complaint did not state that the lease ...


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