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Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Pollard

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 5, 2018

DEUTSCHE BANK NATIONAL TRUST COMPANY, TRUSTEE
v.
ALVIN POLLARD ET AL.

          Argued April 18, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action to foreclose a mortgage on certain of the named defendant's real property, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the named defendant filed a counterclaim; thereafter, the court, Dubay, J., granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to liability on the complaint and on the counterclaim and rendered judgment for the plaintiff on the counterclaim; subsequently, the court, denied the named defendant's motion to reargue, and the named defendant appealed to the court; thereafter, the court, Dubay, J., issued an articulation of its decision; subsequently, this court dismissed the appeal in part. Affirmed.

          Alvin Pollard, self-represented, the appellant (defendant).

          Melanie Dykas, with whom, on the brief, was Tara L. Trifon, for the appellee (plaintiff).

          Lavine, Bright and Bishop, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         In this foreclosure action, the self-represented defendant Alvin Pollard[1] appeals from the trial court's rendering of summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, [2] as to liability on the complaint and rendering summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff on the defendant's counterclaim. The defendant appeals, as well, from the court's denial of his motion to reargue. We affirm the judgment of the trial court as to the defendant's counterclaim.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to our discussion of the issues on appeal. By complaint dated August 14, 2015, the plaintiff brought this action against the defendant to foreclose a mortgage on residential property located at 6 Wild Rose Court in Bloomfield. The loan indebtedness and related mortgage arose in conjunction with a loan to the defendant from the plaintiff's predecessor in interest, New Century Mortgage Corporation. In response, by pleading dated September 14, 2015, the defendant filed an answer, numerous special defenses and a six count counterclaim contesting, inter alia, the plaintiff's standing to bring this action and alleging that the mortgage lien and underlying debt in question had been discharged in bankruptcy. Thereafter, on April 6, 2016, the plaintiff moved for summary judgment as to liability on its complaint and the counterclaim asserted by the defendant. On January 6, 2017, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Subsequently, on March 3, 2017, the court denied the defendant's motion to reargue. This appeal followed.

         During the pendency of this appeal, the trial court, on prompting from this court, articulated its reasons for granting the motion for summary judgment. On April 27, 2017, the court stated that it had granted the motion for summary judgment as to liability on the plaintiff's complaint and that the eight special defenses and the six count counterclaim filed by the defendant were legally insufficient to the extent they could be comprehended. The court stated, as well, that the special defenses and counterclaim did not satisfy the transaction test requiring that they relate to the making, validity or enforcement of the note or mortgage.

         Also, while this appeal was pending, this court dismissed the portion of the defendant's appeal regarding the trial court's granting of the motion for summary judgment as to liability on the complaint on the ground that the court's order in this regard is not a final judgment. See Danbury v. Hovi, 34 Conn.App. 121, 123, 640 A.2d 609 (1994) (appeal dismissed for lack of final judgment when trial court rendered summary judgment as to liability only); see also Essex Savings Bank v. Frimberger, 26 Conn.App. 80, 597 A.2d 1289 (1991) (appeal dismissed for lack of final judgment from summary judgment on plaintiff's complaint when ‘‘[t]rial court has yet to determine the amount of the debt, the attorney's fees, or even whether the foreclosure shall be strict or by sale''). Accordingly, all that remains for this court to decide on review is the defendant's claim that the court incorrectly rendered summary judgment as to his counterclaim.[3]

         In brief, the defendant argues that the court too narrowly construed the transaction test in determining that his counterclaim did not relate to the making, validity or enforcement of the note or mortgage.[4] As a result, the defendant asserts that the court erred in rendering summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. ‘‘Our review of the decision to grant a motion for summary judgment is plenary.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) U.S. Bank National Assn. v. Sorrentino, 158 Conn.App. 84, 94, 118 A.3d 607, cert. denied, 319 Conn. 951, 125 A.3d 530 (2015). ‘‘The transaction test is one of practicality, and the trial court's determination as to whether that test has been met ought not be disturbed except for an abuse of discretion.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Morgera v. Chiappardi, 74 Conn.App. 442, 449, 813 A.2d 89 (2003).

         Other than a broad and conclusory claim that the court too narrowly construed the transaction test, the defendant has provided this court with no argument specific to any count of his counterclaim; nor has he set forth any reasoning in support of the notion that his pleadings fall within the parameters of the transaction test.[5] Although we recognize and adhere to the well-founded policy to accord leeway to self-represented parties in the appeal process, our deference is not unlimited; nor is a litigant on appeal relieved of the obligation to sufficiently articulate a claim so that it is recognizable to a reviewing court. ‘‘[I]t is the established policy of the Connecticut courts to be solicitous of [self-represented] litigants and when it does not interfere with the rights of other parties to construe the rules of practice liberally in favor of the [self-represented] party. . . . This rule of construction has limits, however. Although we allow [self-represented] litigants some latitude, the right of self-representation provides no attendant license not to comply with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. . . . In addition, while courts should not construe pleadings narrowly and technically, courts also cannot contort pleadings in such away soas to strain the bounds of rational comprehension.'' (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Mourning v. Commissioner of Correction, 120 Conn.App. 612, 624-25, 992 A.2d 1169, cert. denied, 297 Conn. 919, 996 A.2d 1192 (2010); see also Rutka v. Meriden, 145 Conn.App. 202, 218, 75 A.3d 722 (2013).

         On the basis of our thorough review of each count of the defendant's counterclaim, we conclude that the court aptly applied the transaction test and did not abuse its discretion in determining that the matters asserted therein by the defendant did not have a sufficient nexus to the making, validity or enforcement of the note or mortgage ...


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