PATRICIA R. KAPLAN
DAVID SCHEER ET AL.
December 5, 2017
for, inter alia, the reformation of a deed, and for other
relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial
district of New Haven, where the defendants filed a
counterclaim; thereafter, the court, Nazzaro, J.,
granted the defendants' motion to cite in Ian Scott as a
counterclaim defendant; subsequently, the matter was tried to
the court, Hon. Richard E. Burke, judge trial
referee; judgment for the defendants, from which the
plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.
Matthew G. Berger, for the appellant (plaintiff).
Richard T. Meehan, for the appellees (defendants).
DiPentima, C. J., and Prescott and Eveleigh, Js.
DiPENTIMA, C. J.
case concerns a settlement agreement pursuant to which (1)
the defendants, David Scheer and his wife, Tracy Scheer,
granted the plaintiff, Patricia R. Kaplan, an easement for
pedestrian and vehicular access to a portion of the
plaintiff's driveway that lay on the defendants'
property (driveway easement), and (2) the parties exchanged
quitclaim deeds. The plaintiff now contends that these deeds
were recorded in the wrong order and, as a result, her deed
inadvertently conveyed to the defendants a different
easement, one that previously had allowed her to cross the
defendants' property to access Long Island Sound (water
easement). The plaintiff contends that this
conveyance was not something the parties bargained for when
they reached their agreement. She brought the underlying
action seeking to restore the water easement through various
equitable remedies; she now appealsfrom the judgment of the
trial court, following a trial to that court, in favor of the
defendants. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the
trial court (1) misinterpreted the settlement agreement by
finding that the alphanumeric prefixes in it were included
only for convenience and did not bear upon the parties'
intent and (2) improperly rejected her claim of mutual
mistake. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
record contains the following relevant facts and procedural
history. The plaintiff has lived at 6 Spring Rock Road in
Branford since 1969 and has owned that property since 1970.
In 1999, the defendants purchased 2 Spring Rock Road, the
waterfront parcel immediately to the south of the
plaintiff's property. From the start, the relationship
between the parties was characterized by mutual antipathy and
soon devolved into a series of disputes.
these disputes concerned the location of a boundary line.
After a survey, the defendants discovered that a portion of
the plaintiff's driveway crossed over their property.
Thereafter, the defendants erected a stockade fence on or
near the boundary line. Following further antagonism from
both parties about that fence as well as various plantings
along the same boundary, the plaintiff brought an action
against the defendants claiming, inter alia, adverse
possession of the portion of the defendants' property
that comprised part of her driveway.
2003, the parties resolved that case by entering into a
written settlement agreement. Pursuant to the settlement
agreement, the plaintiff withdrew the action, the parties
exchanged quitclaim deeds and the defendants granted the
plaintiff the driveway easement. The settlement agreement,
however, contained no specific language dictating the order
in which the defendants' attorney was to record these
instruments in the Bran- ford land records.
April 23, 2003, the defendants' attorney submitted the
instruments in the following sequence. First, the driveway
easement was recorded at 9:40 a.m. in volume 813 at page
Next, the quitclaim deed from the defendants to the plaintiff
(defendants' deed) was recorded at 9:42 a.m. in volume
813 at page 736. Finally, the quitclaim deed from the
plaintiff to the defendants (plaintiff's deed) was
recorded at 9:44 a.m. in volume 813 at page
plaintiff's deed conveyed all of her extant rights in the
defendants' property ‘‘excepting only those
rights conveyed'' in the driveway easement. See
footnotes 6, 7 and 8 of this opinion. Among the rights thus
conveyed was the privilege to cross the defendants'
property to access the water, which the plaintiff argued she
possessed by virtue of both the defendants' deed, which
made reference to it in the description of the
defendants' property, and an 1882 warranty
deed. The defendants eventually informed the
plaintiff that, because all her rights in their property had
been conveyed to them and because the plaintiff and her
husband had continued to engage in activities the defendants
found injurious to the quiet enjoyment of their property,
the defendants would no longer permit the plaintiff and her
guests to cross the defendants' property to access the
2012, the plaintiff brought the underlying action, seeking,
inter alia, to reform the plaintiff's deed
‘‘by reserving the [water
easement].'' In support of her claim for reformation,
the plaintiff alleged mutual and unilateral mistake, the
latter of which by actual and constructive fraud or
inequitable conduct. After a five day trial to the court in
August and December, 2015, the court rendered judgment in
favor of the defendants. See footnote 3 of this opinion. The
plaintiff appealed. Additional facts will be set forth as
plaintiff first claims that the trial court erred by
concluding that the alphanumeric prefixes in the settlement
agreement; see footnote 5 of this opinion; were included only
for convenience. She contends that the prefixes indicated the
order in which the property instruments were to be recorded.
begin with the applicable legal principles. The plaintiff
argues that ‘‘[w]here there is definitive
contract language, the determination of what the parties
intended by their contractual commitments is a question of
law'' over which our review is plenary. (Internal
quotation marks omitted.) See Reid v. Landsberger,
123 Conn.App. 260, 271, 1 A.3d 1149, cert. denied, 298 Conn.
933, 10 A.3d 517 (2010). The defendants counter that, because
the court made a finding of fact, the clearly erroneous
standard applies. These arguments are incomplete because, as
explained herein, the scope and depth of our review depend on
whether the contractual language is ambiguous on its face.
law governing the construction of contracts is well settled.
When a party asserts a claim that challenges the trial
court's construction of a contract, we must first
ascertain whether the relevant language in the agreement is
ambiguous. . . . If a contract is unambiguous within its four
corners, intent of the parties is a question of law requiring
plenary review. . . . [If] the language of a contract is
ambiguous, the determination of the parties' intent is a
question of fact, and the trial court's interpretation is
subject to reversal on appeal only if it is clearly
erroneous. . . . A contract is ambiguous if the intent of the
parties is not clear and certain from the language of the
contract itself. . . . Accordingly, any ambiguity in a
contract must emanate from the language used in the contract
rather than from one party's subjective perception of the
terms. . . .
accord the language employed in the contract a rational
construction based on its common, natural and ordinary
meaning and usage as applied to the subject matter of the
contract. . . . [If] the language is unambiguous, we must
give the contract effect according to its terms. . . . [If]
the language is ambiguous, however, we must construe those
ambiguities against the drafter. . . . Moreover, in
construing contracts, we give effect to all the language
included therein, as the law of contract interpretation . . .
militates against interpreting a contract in a way that
renders a provision superfluous.'' (Citations
omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) EH Investment
Co., LLC v. Chappo, LLC, 174 Conn.App. 344, 357-58, 166
A.3d 800 (2017); see also Reid v. Landsberger,
supra, 123 Conn.App. 271-72.
conclude that the section of the settlement agreement at
issue; see footnote 5 of this opinion; is unambiguous on its
face. The settlement agreement is straightforward in its
mandate that the parties draft and exchange the referenced
legal instruments. The parties' conflicting
understandings of the application of the prefixes
notwithstanding, there is nothing intrinsically ambiguous
about the alphanumeric labeling. See EH Investment
Co., LLC v. Chappo, LLC, supra, 174 Conn.App. 358
(‘‘any ambiguity in a contract must emanate from
the language used in the ...