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Kargul v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

June 26, 2018

ALOYSIUS KARGUL ET AL.
v.
MIKA-ELA SMITH ET AL.

          Argued March 6, 2018

         Procedural History

         Summary process action brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New London at Norwich, Housing Session, where the court, Newson, J., granted the parties' motion for a stipulated judgment for possession in favor of the plaintiffs subject to a stay of execution, and rendered judgment thereon; thereafter, the court granted the plaintiffs' motion for execution and denied the defendants' objection to the execution, and the defendants appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Mark DeGale, self-represented, with whom, on the brief, was Mika-Ela Smith, self-represented, the appellants (defendants).

          Bryan P. Fiengo, for the appellees (plaintiffs).

          Sheldon, Elgo and Bright, Js.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         The self-represented defendants, Mika-Ela Smith and Mark DeGale, appeal from the judgment of the trial court rendered in favor of the plaintiffs, Aloysius Kargul and Barbara Greczkowski. On appeal, the defendants claim that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this summary process action. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The relevant facts are not in dispute. On August 29, 2016, the plaintiffs served on the defendants a notice to quit possession of real property known as 38 Williams Street in Jewett City due to nonpayment of rent. On October 5, 2016, the plaintiffs commenced a summary process action against the defendants (first action), alleging that they had failed to make payments in accordance with an oral lease agreement (agreement) between the parties. In response, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the action. Before that motion was acted upon by the court, the plaintiffs on November 8, 2016, filed a withdrawal of the first action.

         The plaintiffs served a second notice to quit possession on the defendants on November 14, 2016. The plaintiffs then commenced the present summary process action against the defendants, alleging that the agreement between the parties had terminated by lapse of time. The parties thereafter filed a motion for judgment by stipulation with the court.[1] By order dated January 11, 2017, the court granted that motion and rendered judgment in accordance with the stipulation of the parties.

         Approximately one month later, the plaintiffs filed an affidavit of noncompliance with the court, in which they averred that the defendants had failed to comply with the terms of that judgment. The plaintiffs thus requested that an execution for possession issue. The defendants objected to that request, and the court held an evidentiary hearing on the matter. At the conclusion of that hearing, the court found that the defendants had violated the terms of the stipulated judgment.[2] Accordingly, the court ordered that the summary process execution ‘‘may be issued immediately.'' This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the defendants claim that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this summary process action. They contend that the plaintiffs, in serving the initial notice to quit possession in August, 2016, ‘‘terminated the agreement between the parties without equivocation or reservation, '' and thereby deprived the court of jurisdiction to entertain the summary process action commenced by the plaintiffs four months later. The defendants are mistaken.

         It is true that ‘‘[s]ervice of a notice to quit possession is typically a landlord's unequivocal act notifying the tenant of the termination of the lease.'' Housing Authority v. Hird, 13 Conn.App. 150, 155, 535 A.2d 377, cert. denied, 209 Conn. 825, 552 A.2d 433 (1988). As this court has recognized, however, a plaintiff possesses an ‘‘absolute and unconditional'' statutory right to withdraw its summary process action prior to the commencement of a hearing thereon. Id., 157; see General Statutes § 52-80 (‘‘[t]he plaintiff may withdraw any action . . . before the commencement of a hearing on [its] merits''). When a plaintiff exercises that statutory right, its withdrawal of the action ‘‘effectively erase[s] the court slate clean as though the eviction predicated on [an earlier] notice to quit possession had never been commenced.'' Housing Authority v. Hird, supra, 157. In such instances, the plaintiff and the defendant to the summary process action are ‘‘ ‘back to square one,' and the continuation of their lease . . . [is] restored.'' (Emphasis added.) Id. For that reason, our Supreme Court has held that ‘‘after withdrawing [an] initial summary process action, the plaintiffs, as landlords, [are] required to serve a new notice to quit prior to commencing a new summary process action.'' Waterbury Twin, LLC v. Renal Treatment Centers-Northeast, Inc., 292 Conn. 459, 474, 974 A.2d 626 (2009).

         Guided by that precedent, we conclude that when the plaintiffs withdrew the first action against the defendants prior to the commencement of a hearing on its merits, the continuation of the agreement between the parties was restored. Housing Authority v. Hird, supra, 13 Conn.App. 157. The trial court, therefore, did ...


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