Peter J. FRANCINI, Trustee, et al.
Nicholas A. RIGGIONE
April 15, 2019
from the Superior Court, Judicial District of
Ansonia-Milford, Moran, Judicial Trial Referee.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
M. Dunne, for the appellant (defendant).
J. Willinger, Jr., with whom, on the brief, were Ann Marie
Willinger and James A. Lenes, Bridgeport, for the appellees
C.J., and Keller and Olear, Js.
Conn.App. 323] This appeal arises from a breach of contract
and private nuisance action brought by the plaintiffs, Peter
J. Francini, Trustee, and Donald W. Anderson, Trustee, on
behalf of the Peter J. Francini 1992 Revocable Family
Trust, against the defendant, Nicholas A.
Riggione. After a five day trial to the court, the court
rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on their breach
of contract claims, but denied their request for injunctive
and equitable relief on their private nuisance claim. The
defendant appeals from the courts subsequent award, after
determining that the plaintiffs were the prevailing party, of
approximately $90,000 in attorneys fees. On appeal, the
defendant essentially claims that the court abused its
discretion in calculating the award of attorneys fees (1)
because in awarding fees to the plaintiffs on their claims
related to a breach of contract between the parties, a proper
analysis of the factors listed in rule 1.5 (a) of the Rules
of Professional Conduct
would compel a significant downward departure from the
plaintiffs initial lodestar calculation; and [193 Conn.App.
324] (2) when it awarded fees for a private nuisance claim on
which the plaintiffs did not prevail. We agree with the
defendant that the court abused its discretion in awarding
attorneys fees for a claim on which the plaintiffs did not
prevail. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial
court in part and remand the case for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
record reveals the following relevant facts, found by the
trial court or otherwise undisputed, and procedural history.
The defendant was the owner of a three lot subdivision on
Gulf Street, which abuts Milford Harbor and Long Island
Sound, in the city of Milford. In 2012, the defendant agreed
to sell one of the undeveloped lots (lot 3) for approximately
$800,000 to Francini so that he could build a home with views
of Long Island Sound, Charles Island, and the Milford Harbor.
The initial closing date was set for July 18, 2012. The
parties failed to close by the July closing date, and,
thereafter, their attorneys drew up a second, more
comprehensive [193 Conn.App. 325] agreement with a new
closing date of September 14, 2012 (lawyers contract). The
parties subsequently failed to close in September,
March, 2014, approximately eighteen months after the second
closing date, the defendant conveyed title to Francini. At
the March, 2014 closing, the parties entered into a final
agreement (postclosing agreement), and memorialized the
defendants remaining obligations relevant to lot 3. Among
other things, the contract provided that the defendant was to
maintain certain height restrictions on his property (lot 2),
level and regrade whatever topsoil remained on lot 2 after
the construction of ...