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Department of Transportation v. White Oak Corp.

Supreme Court of Connecticut

August 20, 2019

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
v.
WHITE OAK CORPORATION

         Argued November 8, 2018

         Appeal from the Superior Court, Judicial District of Hartford, Richard M. Rittenband, Judge Trial Referee, Palmer J. Hartford, Robaina, J.

Page 460

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 461

          Kerry M. Wisser, West Hartford, with whom, on the brief, was Sarah Black Lingenheld, Farmington, for the appellant (defendant).

         Christine Jean-Louis, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, was George Jepsen, Hartford, former attorney general, for the appellee (plaintiff).

         Palmer, McDonald, Mullins, Kahn and Ecker, Js.

          OPINION

         MULLINS, J.

         [332 Conn. 777] After an arbitration proceeding, the defendant, White Oak Corporation (White Oak), was awarded a money judgment against the plaintiff, the [332 Conn. 778] Department of Transportation (department) in the amount of $8,362,308.41 plus interest. In paying that judgment on behalf of the department, the Office of the State Comptroller (comptroller) withheld $1,642,312.14 for taxes White Oak had owed to the state. As a result of this withholding, White Oak filed a motion with the trial court seeking a determination as to whether the judgment had been satisfied. In its motion, White Oak asserted that the department did not fully satisfy its judgment because, during a prior arbitration proceeding between the parties, the department had alleged but failed to prove its claim for taxes owed to the state and that, thus, the doctrine of collateral estoppel precluded the comptroller from reducing the payment by any amount for taxes owed.

         The trial court rejected White Oak’s claim and determined that the judgment had been satisfied. The defendant now appeals from the trial court’s determination, again alleging that collateral estoppel precluded the comptroller from withholding the taxes owed to the state. We agree with the trial court that the department satisfied its judgment to White Oak because General Statutes § 12-39g imposed a mandatory obligation on the comptroller to reduce the amount paid to White Oak by the amount of taxes owed to the state as those taxes were not the subject of a timely filed administrative appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         The record reveals the following facts and procedural history. In 1994, the parties, White Oak and the department, entered into a contract for construction of the Tomlinson Bridge in New Haven. Nearly three years later, the parties entered into a second contract for reconstruction of the Yellow Mill Pond Bridge in Bridgeport. Both projects were beset by considerable delays and conflicts between the parties. As a result, in 2000, the parties entered into an agreement to reassign the [332 Conn. 779] contracts to a different contractor. Thereafter, White Oak filed notices of claims and corresponding demands for arbitration for each project pursuant to General Statutes § 4-61 (b)[1] claiming, inter alia, wrongful termination of each contract.

Page 462

          The matter relating to the Tomlinson Bridge was the first to proceed to arbitration (Tomlinson arbitration). [332 Conn. 780] In its answer to White Oak’s revised amended demand, the department asserted various setoffs and counter-claims, only one of which is relevant here. The relevant counterclaim alleged that "[White Oak] presently has a tax debt due and owing to the state." During arbitration, no evidence was adduced regarding the tax claim and neither party addressed it during oral argument. In 2004, the Tomlinson arbitration panel issued its award, rejecting White Oak’s wrongful termination claim and awarding the department $1,169,648.33 in damages. With regard to the department’s claim for a tax debt ...


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