MERIBEAR PRODUCTIONS, INC.
JOAN E. FRANK ET AL.
Date: November 13, 2017
to, inter alia, enforce a foreign default judgment rendered
against the defendants in California, and for other relief,
brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of
Fairfield, where the defendants filed an answer and special
defense alleging that the judgment was not enforceable due to
lack of personal jurisdiction by the California court;
thereafter, the matter was tried to the court, Tyma,
J.; judgment for the plaintiff, from which the
defendants appealed to the Appellate Court,
Gruendel, Alvord and Pellegrino,
Js., which affirmed the trial court's judgment,
and the defendants, on the granting of certification,
appealed to this court. Reversed; judgment
Michael S. Taylor, with whom were James P. Sexton, and, on
the brief, Matthew C. Eagan, for the appellants (defendants).
Anthony J. LaBella, with whom, on the brief, was Deborah M.
Garskof, for the appellee (plaintiff).
Palmer, McDonald, D'Auria, Mullins and Kahn, Js. [*]
threshold jurisdictional issue in this case requires us to
clarify the circumstances under which there can be an
appealable final judgment when the trial court's decision
does not dispose of counts advancing alternative theories of
relief. The plaintiff, Meribear Productions, Inc., brought an
action against the defendants, Joan E. Frank and George A.
Frank, for common-law enforcement of a foreign default
judgment, breach of contract and quantum meruit. Judgment was
rendered in favor of the plaintiff against each of the
defendants under different counts of the complaint. The
Appellate Court affirmed the judgment on the merits, and this
court thereafter granted the defendants' petition for
certification to appeal from that judgment. Upon further
review, it is apparent that the judgment was not final as to
George Frank, and, therefore, the Appellate Court lacked
jurisdiction over the defendants' joint appeal.
following facts were found by the trial court or are
otherwise reflected in the record. The defendants, who are
husband and wife, decided to sell their West-port home. They
hired the plaintiff, a home staging services provider, to
provide design and decorating services, which included the
staging of home furnishings owned by the plaintiff, to make
the residence more attractive to potential buyers. The
plaintiff is a California corporation with its principal
place of business located in Los Angeles. The staging
agreement was signed only by Joan Frank, the owner of the
property. George Frank signed an addendum to the agreement,
which authorized the plaintiff to charge his credit card for
the initial staging fee, which included the first four months
of rental charges, and indicated his personal guarantee to
the plaintiff, but he crossed out the phrase "any
obligations that may become due."
than four months after the furnishings were delivered and
staged in the defendants' home, the defendants defaulted
on their payment obligations and failed to cooperate with the
plaintiff's attempts to repossess the furnishings. The
plaintiff filed an action against the defendants in a
California Superior Court. The defendants did not appear or
defend. The California court entered a default judgment
against the defendants in the amount of $259, 746.10, which
included prejudgment interest and attorney's
one month later, the plaintiff commenced the present action
in Connecticut seeking to hold the defendants jointly and
severally liable under the foreign default judgment and to
recover additional attorney's fees, costs, and
postjudgment interest. In response to the defendants'
assertion of a special defense that the judgment was void
because the California court lacked personal jurisdiction
over them, the plaintiff amended the complaint to add two
counts seeking recovery against both defendants under
theories of breach of contract and quantum meruit. Prior to
trial, a prejudgment attachment in the amount of $259,
764.10, together with 10 percent postjudgment interest,
pursuant to provisions of the California Code of Civil
Procedure, was entered against the Westport real property
owned by Joan Frank.
trial to the court, the plaintiff litigated all three claims.
In its posttrial brief, the plaintiff requested that the
court give full faith and credit to the California judgment,
plus postjudgment interest; "[i]n the alternative,
" find that the defendants had breached the contract and
award damages in the same amount awarded in the California
judgment, plus interest, fees and costs; and,
"[f]inally, in the event [that] neither request is . . .
granted, " render judgment in the plaintiff's favor
on the quantum meruit count in the same amount.
court issued a memorandum of decision finding in favor of the
plaintiff on count one against George Frank and on count two
against Joan Frank. The court acknowledged at the outset that
the three count complaint was for "common-law
enforcement of a foreign default judgment, and alternatively,
for breach of contract and quantum meruit." Turning
first to count one, the trial court determined that, as a
result of the manner in which process was served, the
California court lacked personal jurisdiction over Joan Frank
but had jurisdiction over George Frank. In rejecting George
Frank's argument that the exercise of jurisdiction did
not comply with the dictates of due process, the court cited
his admission "that he signed a guarantee of the staging
agreement . . . that provides that Los Angeles is the
appropriate forum." Consequently, the court stated that
it would render judgment on count one for Joan Frank and
against George Frank.
resolving the remaining counts, the court made no further
reference to George Frank. As to count two, the court
concluded that Joan Frank had breached the contract, that she
could not prevail on her special defenses to enforcement of
the contract, and that judgment would be rendered for the
plaintiff and against Joan Frank. As to count three, the
court cited case law explaining that parties routinely plead
alternative counts of breach of contract and quantum meruit,
but that they are only entitled to a single measure of
damages. The court concluded: "The ...