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Welsh v. Martinez

Appellate Court of Connecticut

August 20, 2019

D’Anna WELSH
v.
William V. MARTINEZ

         Argued February 4, 2019

         Appeal from Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford and tried to the jury before Robaina, J.

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          Jeffrey J. Mirman, with whom were David A. DeBassio and, on the brief, Thomas J. Farrell, Hartford, for the appellant (defendant).

         Irve J. Goldman, Bridgeport, with whom, on the brief, was Timothy G. Ronan, Stamford, for the appellee (plaintiff).

         Lavine, Prescott and Elgo, Js.

          OPINION

         ELGO, J.

         [191 Conn.App. 864] The defendant, William V. Martinez, Jr.,[1] appeals from the judgment of the trial court holding [191 Conn.App. 865] him in contempt for violating the terms of an asset standstill order. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly (1) found him in contempt because that order lacked sufficient clarity and was ambiguous, (2) failed to consider the defendant’s ability to pay in imposing a compensatory fine, and (3) abused its discretion in imposing that fine. We affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

         In 2010, the plaintiff, D’Anna Welsh, commenced a civil action (underlying action) against the defendant, in which she alleged tortious invasion of privacy, negligence per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent misrepresentation. At trial, the jury was presented with "undisputed evidence" that the defendant "conducted extensive covert surveillance of the plaintiff over the course of several years. That surveillance included intimate video transmissions from her bedroom and shower, daily reports as to every notation made on her computer, and GPS monitoring of her vehicle. The jury also had before it evidence that although the defendant swore under oath before the [Superior Court] at [an] accelerated rehabilitation hearing ... that the plaintiff ‘had

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nothing to worry about’ and that no further surveillance equipment remained in the plaintiff’s home, the transmissions from her bedroom thereafter continued and the defendant continued to receive daily e-mail reports from the spyware on the plaintiff’s computer. The jury also was presented with evidence that despite her request for the defendant to leave her alone, he continued to appear unannounced and uninvited at her home. His behavior terrified the plaintiff, particularly when he informed her that ‘I can hear you from outside your house.’ In addition, the defendant’s angry and violent conduct left the plaintiff scared for her life."[2] [191 Conn.App. 866] Welsh v. Martinez, 157 Conn.App. 223, 241, 114 A.3d 1231, cert. denied, 317 Conn. 922, 118 A.3d 63 (2015). The jury thereafter returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on all counts and awarded her $2 million in damages, the propriety of which this court affirmed on appeal. See id., at 240-46, 114 A.3d 1231.

         After the jury returned a verdict in her favor, the plaintiff filed a motion with the trial court seeking punitive damages in the amount of her attorney’s fees. The trial court, Robaina, J., granted that motion over the defendant’s objection and awarded "the sum of $360,000 as punitive damages in favor of the plaintiff."[3] As a result, the plaintiff had an outstanding judgment against the defendant in the amount of $2,360,000 as of December, 2012.[4]

         On the same day that the jury delivered its verdict, the plaintiff filed two pleadings relevant to this appeal. The first was an application for a prejudgment remedy.[5] In the second, which was titled "Plaintiff’s Motion to Prevent Defendant’s Fraudulent Transfer of Property," the plaintiff alleged that she had "a reasonable belief that [the] defendant will attempt to fraudulently transfer property in violation of [the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, General Statutes § 52-552a et seq.]."

         On July 9, 2012, the court, Graham, J., held a hearing on the latter motion. At its conclusion, the court entered an order that stated: "The [defendant] is enjoined from [191 Conn.App. 867] voluntarily transferring or encumbering any assets except business assets in the ordinary course of business and personal assets for ordinary living expenses, including court-ordered alimony and child support" (asset standstill order).[6]

         Weeks later, on July 31, 2012, Judge Robaina granted the plaintiff’s application for a prejudgment remedy. In so doing, the court ordered: "[The] plaintiff is allowed to attach up to $2 million of the defendant’s property and [the] defendant is to provide a disclosure of assets by

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August 10, 2012. No wage garnishment to be sought at this time." On June 24, 2013, in response to a motion by the plaintiff, the court entered an additional order requiring the periodic disclosure of assets by the defendant (asset disclosure order).[7]

          On May 2, 2017, the plaintiff filed a postjudgment motion for contempt and an accompanying memorandum of law. In that motion, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant voluntarily had transferred more than $2 million to Cristina Martinez (Cristina) "by depositing his monies directly into her bank account for no valid purpose but for the purpose of defeating [the] asset standstill order." The plaintiff also alleged that the [191 Conn.App. 868] defendant had "concealed and refused to disclose his personal property, financial bank and trading accounts, and debts due and owing to him" in violation of the asset disclosure order. The defendant filed an objection to the plaintiff’s motion, to which the plaintiff filed a reply.

         The court, Moll, J., held an evidentiary hearing on the plaintiff’s motion for contempt on August 2, 2017. The plaintiff called three witnesses: David Baker, the vice president of corporate security at Farmington Bank; Jamie Cook, the custodian of records at People’s United Bank; and the defendant.[8] At that hearing, the court received undisputed documentary and testimonial evidence indicating that, at the time that the verdict was rendered in the underlying action in 2012, the defendant was the sole holder of an account with Farmington Bank, into which he regularly deposited his wages. When that account became frozen in October, 2012, as a result of collection actions undertaken by the plaintiff, the defendant began depositing his wages in their entirety into an account with People’s United Bank held solely by his then-wife, Cristina.[9] By his own admission, the ...


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