No. CV03 0082016S
February 9, 2005
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This case concerns a personal injury claim brought by the plaintiff Arbusto against the Estate Eugene P. Perkins, Jr. The facts are not in dispute and in fact counsel at the February 7, 2005 hearing stipulated as to the pertinent facts:
The plaintiff was allegedly caused to slip and fall on premises owned by Eugene P. Perkins, Jr. on April 4, 2001;
Eugene P. Perkins, Jr. died on May 11, 2001;
The decedent's estate was opened and an administrator was appointed on May 21, 2003;
The decedent's estate was served on May 24, 2003.
The defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, claiming that the statute of limitations pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 52-584 when read in conjunction with Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-375(c) makes summary judgment appropriate.
II. LEGAL ARGUMENT
The basic purpose of statutes of limitation is to promote finality in the litigation process. Pintavalle v. Valkanos, 216 Conn. 412, 417, 581 A.2d 1050 (1999). In particular, "[a] statute of limitation or of repose is designed to (1) prevent the unexpected enforcement of stale and fraudulent claims by allowing persons after the lapse of a reasonable time, to plan their affairs with a reasonable degree of certainty, free from the disruptive burden of protracted and unknown potential liability, and (2) to aid in the search for truth that may be impaired by the loss of evidence, whether by death or disappearance of witnesses, fading memories, disappearance of documents or otherwise." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Wynn v. Metropolitan Property Casualty Ins. Co., 30 Conn.App. 803, 808, 623 A.2d 66 (1993), aff'd, 228 Conn. 436, 635 A.2d 814 (1994); see also Gurliacci v. Mayer, 218 Conn. 531, 548, 590 A.2d 914 (1991); Beebe v. East Haddam, 48 Conn.App. 60, 67, 708 A.2d 231 (1998).
"Summary judgment may be granted where the claim is barred by the statute of limitations." Doty v. Mucci, 238 Conn. 800, 806, 679 A.2d 945 (1996). Summary judgment is appropriate on statute of limitation grounds when the "material facts concerning the statute of limitations [are] not in dispute . . ." Burns v. Hartford Hospital, 192 Conn. 451, 452, 472 A.2d 1257 (1984). See, e.g., Collum v. Chapin, 40 Conn.App. 449, 451, 671 A.2d 1329 (1996) (concerning General Statutes § 52-577, the only facts material to a court's decision on a summary judgment motion are the date of the alleged wrongful conduct and the date the action was filed).
A party does not have to plead a time limitation as a special defense prior to moving for summary judgment. "If we were to hold that a motion for summary judgment cannot be made prior to pleading a statute of limitations as a special defense, we would negate that portion of § [17-44] that provides that a motion for summary judgment can be made `at any time,' without the necessity of closing the pleadings." Girard v. Weiss, 43 Conn.App. 397, 416, 682 A.2d 1078, cert. denied, 239 Conn. 946, 686 A.2d 121 (1996).
It is undisputed that the complaint was served on May 24, 2003. In Connecticut, an action is commenced on the date of service of the writ upon the defendant. Hillman v. Greenwich, 217 Conn. 520, 527, 587 A.2d 99 (1991); Lacasse v. Burns, 214 Conn. 464, 475 (1990); Altfeter v. Naugatuck, 53 Conn.App. 803 (1999). Thus, it is irrefutable that the claim which arose on April 4, 2001 was not commenced by service until May 24, 2003 and, therefore, the question presented is whether the intervening death of Eugene P. Perkins, Jr. tolled the statute of limitations until such time as his estate was opened on May 21, 2003.
The defendant claims that International Tool and Gauge Company v. Borg, 145 Conn. 644 (1958), and Lubas v. McCusker, CT Page 2976 153 Conn. 250 (1965), stand for the proposition that the statute of limitations is tolled from the date of the decedent's death until the appointment of the administrator. Without question, this was the state of the law until 1987 but it posed a problem in that if death tolled the statute of limitations and it did not begin to run until a fiduciary was appointed, a plaintiff could wait years to open an estate, thus delaying indefinitely the time within which such an action would need to be brought. In 1987, the legislature enacted Public Act 87-384 codified at Connecticut General Statutes §§ 45a-353 though 45a-383. These statutes, entitled "Claims Against Decedent's Estates for Decedent's Dying On or After October 1, 1987" specifically address the tolling problem referred to above. Specifically, Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-375(c) states: "No claim may be presented and no suit may be commenced against the fiduciary, the estate of the decedent, or any creditor or beneficiary of such estate within two years from the date of the decedent's death or the date upon which the statute of limitations applicable to such a claim . . . would otherwise have expired, whichever shall occur first."
Our legislature recently enacted Public Act 03-154 which provides: "The meaning of a statute shall, in the first instance, be ascertained from the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes. If, after examining such texts and considering such relationship, the meaning of such text is plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results, extratextual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not be considered." In the instant case, the statute at issue, Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-375(c), reveals an intention to supersede the law regarding the tolling of the statute of limitations as enunciated in Lubas v. McCusker, supra. The main principle of statutory construction is that the general assembly is always presumed to know all of the statutes and the effect that its action or nonaction will have upon any one of them. State v. Alloi, 86 Conn.App. 363, 370 (2004). Clearly then, the legislature, in enacting Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-375(c), was presumed to understand the existing law and this statute was in effect curing legislation designed to rectify an existing problem. The canons of statutory construction instruct us to interpret statutes using our common sense to avoid absurd results. Bengtson v. Comm. of Motor Vehicles, 86 Conn.App. 51 (2004). Thus, the plaintiff had until April 4, 2003 to commence this action and failed.
The court, in Linda Westhart v. Estate of Alan Gagne, 2002 WL 1009817 (Conn.Super. 2002) ( 32 Conn. L. Rptr. 66), dealt with a similar interpretation on Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-375(c) and reached the same result.
Wherefore, the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
By Shluger, J.