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Bozelko v. Statewide Construction, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

April 23, 2019


          Argued November 29, 2018

         Procedural History

         Action to quiet title to certain real property, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of New Haven and tried to the court, Hon. Richard E. Burke, judge trial referee; judgment for the defendants, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

          Ronald F. Bozelko, self-represented, with whom, on the brief, was Ira B. Grudberg, for the appellant (plaintiff).

          Michael E. Burt, for the appellees (defendants).

          DiPentima, C. J., and Moll and Sullivan, Js.


          DiPENTIMA, C. J.

         The plaintiff, Ronald F. Bozelko, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered following a trial to the court, in favor of the defendants, Statewide Construction, Inc., and Robert Pesapane, in an action to quiet title under General Statutes § 47-31. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the court's conclusions with respect to his quiet title claim are improper. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The following facts and procedural history are relevant to the resolution of this appeal. In 2011, the plaintiff commenced an action against the defendants seeking to quiet title to property known as 105 McLay Avenue in East Haven. In their amended answer, the defendants admitted the allegation in the operative complaint that they may claim an interest in whole or in part in 105 McLay Avenue. The defendants denied the remainder of the allegations in the complaint and did not assert any special defenses or counterclaims, but made a statement in their amended answer, pursuant to § 47-31 (d), that they each owned a portion of 105 McLay Avenue. At trial, the parties submitted evidence of their chains of title. Following trial, the court found in its memorandum of decision that the defendants are the owners of 105 McLay Avenue ‘‘in various proportions.'' This appeal followed.

         On appeal, the plaintiff contends that the court erred in its conclusion as to the ownership of 105 McLay Avenue. Specifically, he argues that the evidence he submitted at trial established that he has title to 105 McLay Avenue. We disagree.

         We first set forth our standard of review. Section 47-31 (a) provides in relevant part: ‘‘An action may be brought by any person claiming title to . . . real . . . property . . . against any person who may claim to own the property, or any part of it . . . adverse to the plaintiff . . . to clear up all doubts and disputes and to quiet and settle the title to the property. Such action may be brought whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to the immediate or exclusive possession of the property.'' In Har v. Boreiko, 118 Conn.App. 787, 986 A.2d 1072 (2010), we stated: ‘‘Under § 47-31, the claim for relief calls for a full determination of the rights of the parties in the land. . . . To prevail, the plaintiff must do so on the strength of [his] own title, not on the weakness of the defendants' . . . and by the preponderance of the evidence.'' (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 795.

         ‘‘Whether a disputed parcel of land should be included in one or another chain of title is a question of fact for the court to decide. . . . In such a determination, it is the court's duty to accept the testimony or evidence that appears more credible. . . . It is well settled that we review the court's findings of fact under the clearly erroneous standard. We cannot retry the facts or pass on the credibility of the witnesses. . . . A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when there is no evidence in the record to support it . . . or when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed . . . .'' (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Highstead Foundation, Inc. v. Fahan, 105 Conn.App. 754, 758-59, 941 A.2d 341 (2008).

         At trial, both parties agreed that the first deed in the plaintiff's chain of title, a warranty deed recorded in July, 1924, by which Lyman A. Granniss transferred a thirty acre parcel of land known as ‘‘Pond Lot'' to John H. Howe, included a parcel that would later become known as 105 McLay Avenue. The next deed in the plaintiff's chain of title is an October, 1924 warranty deed by which Howe transferred to Gertrude H. LaBell and Emma G. McLay the parcel of land referenced on a 1924 McLay Heights subdivision map (1924 subdivision map), with the exception of lots one through forty. The plaintiff claimed that the deed from Howe to LaBell and McLay included 105 McLay Avenue, and the defendants disagreed.

         The 1924 subdivision map included a street named McLay Avenue. It is not disputed that 105 McLay Avenue is a triangular portion of land that comprises a portion of McLay Avenue as shown on the 1924 subdivision map, and that 105 McLay Avenue appears to have been created in ...

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