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Collum v. Chapin

Appellate Court of Connecticut
Mar 5, 1996
40 Conn. App. 449 (Conn. App. Ct. 1996)

Summary

upholding the trial court's consideration of deposition testimony on a motion for summary judgment

Summary of this case from Michaud Estate v. Beckman

Opinion

(14125)

The plaintiff contractor sought to recover for the defendants' alleged tortious interference with a contract that he had with the United States Postal Service to build a post office on certain of his real property. The trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed to this court. Held that the trial court properly determined that the plaintiff's action was barred by the statute of limitations (§ 52-577) applicable to tort claims; construing the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the latest date that the defendants could have interfered with the alleged contractual relationship was the date that the Postal Service wrote a letter rejecting the plaintiff's proposal, the plaintiff did not allege a continuing course of conduct and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint.

Argued December 5, 1995

Decision released March 5, 1996

Action to recover damages for, inter alia, tortious interference with a business relationship, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Litchfield, where the court, R. Walsh, J., granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment thereon, from which the plaintiff appealed to this court. Affirmed.

Maureen Donahue, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Anthony M. Fitzgerald and William C. Franklin, with whom, on the brief, was John Boyer, for the appellees (defendants).


The plaintiff appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting the defendants' joint motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that the trial court improperly concluded that the plaintiff's action for interference with contractual relations was time barred by General Statutes § 52-577. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

General Statutes § 52-577 provides: "No action founded upon a tort shall be brought but within three years from the date of the act or omission complained of."

The following facts were presented to the trial court by way of the pleadings and documents accompanying the motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff is a contractor who proposed to build a new postal facility on land he owned in Washington Depot. In April, 1991, the plaintiff responded to a classified advertisement by the United States Postal Service for a postal facility site. The plaintiff submitted proposals to the Postal Service that were allegedly approved subject to obtaining the required land use permits. The plaintiff alleges that, with knowledge of the "contract" between the plaintiff and the Postal Service, the defendants launched a campaign to interfere with the "contract" and to stop the relocation of the post office to the plaintiff's property.

The plaintiff argues that the trial court improperly relied on his deposition testimony when deciding the joint motion for summary judgment. While the plaintiff's deposition testimony is not conclusive as a judicial admission; General Statutes § 52-200; it is sufficient to support entry of summary judgment in the absence of contradictory competent affidavits that establish a genuine issue as to a material fact. See Practice Book § 380.

The plaintiff alleges in his complaint that the defendants (1) sent daily faxes to the Postal Service, (2) circulated petitions requesting the Postal Service to reconsider its site selection, (3) communicated with a Postal Service representative to cause the cancellation of the transaction, and (4) contacted, influenced and intimidated the town zoning and inland wetland commissions to delay the approval of the plaintiff's site. On April 22, 1991, the zoning commission issued its approval of the plaintiff's project. On April 25, 1991, the Postal Service sent a letter to the plaintiff informing him that it had decided to discontinue its search for a site. The letter cited public outcry as one of its reasons for the decision. The plaintiff received the letter from the Postal Service on April 29, 1991.

On April 27, 1994, the plaintiff commenced this action for tortious interference with contractual relations. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the ground that the action was barred by General Statutes § 52-577 because it was instituted more than three years after the alleged tortious act or omission. On September 8, 1994, the trial court issued a memorandum of decision granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants. On September 16, 1994, the plaintiff filed a motion to open the judgment and amend the complaint. The trial court denied both motions. The plaintiff, thereafter, filed this appeal.

We conclude that the trial court properly granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. "Section 52-577 is an occurrence statute, meaning that the time period within which a plaintiff must commence an action begins to run at the moment the act or omission complained of occurs." S.M.S. Textile Mills, Inc. v. Brown, Jacobson, Tillinghast, Lahan King, P.C., 32 Conn. App. 786, 790, 631 A.2d 340, cert. denied, 228 Conn. 903, 634 A.2d 296 (1993). When conducting an analysis under § 52-577, "the only facts material to the trial court's decision on a motion for summary judgment are the date of the wrongful conduct alleged in the complaint and the date the action was filed." Shuster v. Buckley, 5 Conn. App. 473, 477, 500 A.2d 240 (1985). The three year limitation period of § 52-577 begins with the date of the act or omission complained of, not the date when the plaintiff first discovers an injury. Fichera v. Mine Hill Corp., 207 Conn. 204, 212-13, 541 A.2d 472 (1988).

In this case, the plaintiff commenced an action for tortious interference with contractual relations on April 27, 1994. A claim for tortious interference with contractual relations requires the plaintiff to establish (1) the existence of a contractual or beneficial relationship, (2) the defendants' knowledge of that relationship, (3) the defendants' intent to interfere with the relationship, (4) the interference was tortious, and (5) a loss suffered by the plaintiff that was caused by the defendant's tortious conduct. Robert S. Weiss Associates, Inc. v. Wiederlight, 208 Conn. 525, 535-36, 546 A.2d 216 (1988); Hart, Nininger Campbell Associates, Inc. v. Rogers, 16 Conn. App. 619, 629, 548 A.2d 758 (1988). In order for the plaintiff to establish liability for interference with a contractual relationship, the plaintiff must show that the defendants' tortious conduct caused the Postal Service to terminate its relationship with the plaintiff.

Construing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the latest date that the defendants could have interfered with the alleged contractual relationship between the plaintiff and the Postal Service was April 25, 1991, because that was the date that the Postal Service wrote the letter to the plaintiff rejecting the plaintiff's proposal. Any tortious conduct subsequent to the Postal Service's letter could not have caused the Postal Service to terminate the relationship. The trial court properly concluded that, at the latest, the three year limitation period of General Statutes § 52-577 began to run on April 25, 1991.

The plaintiff claims that the limitations period began to run on April 29, 1991, when he received the Postal Service's letter. The plaintiff argues that the alleged contract was not canceled until such time as he received notice from the Postal Service according to rules of contract law. Our appropriate inquiry is to determine when the alleged tortious conduct occurred. The decision by the Postal Service not to do business with the plaintiff was final and complete on the day of the letter, April 25, 1991.

The plaintiff argues that the limitation period was tolled by operation of the continuous course of conduct doctrine. The trial court did not address this argument because the plaintiff did not allege in his complaint that the defendants engaged in any activity subsequent to the Postal Service letter. To support his theory, the plaintiff relies on an affidavit filed as part of his opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment stating that the defendants continued to engage in tortious conduct after the April 25, 1991 letter.

"A summary judgment is proper where the affidavits do not set forth circumstances which would serve to avoid or impede the normal application of the particular limitations period. . . . Affidavits are not pleadings, however, and a plaintiff cannot, under the guise of fortifying the complaint, present an entirely new cause of action or expand the scope of his cause of action by means of a counter-affidavit. . . . The issue must be one which the party opposing the motion is entitled to litigate under his pleadings and the mere existence of a factual dispute apart from the pleadings is not enough to preclude summary judgment." (Citations omitted.) Shuster v. Buckley, supra, 5 Conn. App. 477. We conclude that the trial court properly declined to address the plaintiff's claim of a continuing course of conduct.

Finally, the plaintiff argues that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to allow him to amend his complaint after he received the trial court's decision on the motion for summary judgment. A trial court has wide discretion in granting or denying amendments to the pleadings. "Such a ruling can be reversed only on a clear showing of abuse of discretion." Saphir v. Neustadt, 177 Conn. 191, 206, 413 A.2d 843 (1979); see also Moore v. Sergi, 38 Conn. App. 829, 835-36, 664 A.2d 795 (1995). "The trial court's refusal to allow a belated amendment to a pleading in response to the filing of a motion for summary judgment by the adverse party will be sustained unless there is clear evidence of an abuse of discretion. . . . Where, as here, the motion was filed after the court had already ruled in favor of the defendant on its summary judgment motion, its action was clearly justified." (Citation omitted.) Shuster v. Buckley, supra, 5 Conn. App. 479. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint.


Summaries of

Collum v. Chapin

Appellate Court of Connecticut
Mar 5, 1996
40 Conn. App. 449 (Conn. App. Ct. 1996)

upholding the trial court's consideration of deposition testimony on a motion for summary judgment

Summary of this case from Michaud Estate v. Beckman

upholding the trial court's consideration of deposition testimony on a motion for summary judgment

Summary of this case from Michaud Estate v. Beckman

upholding the trial court's consideration of deposition testimony on a motion for summary judgment "in the absence of contradictory competent affidavits that establish a genuine issue as to a material fact."

Summary of this case from Ricketts v. Sheresky

upholding the trial court's consideration of deposition testimony on a motion for summary judgment "in the absence of contradictory competent affidavits that establish a genuine issue as to a material fact"

Summary of this case from Hyman v. Garced

affirming the trial court's decision to decline to address the plaintiff's claim of continuous course of conduct because it was first raised in an affidavit in the opposition to the defendant's motion for summary judgment

Summary of this case from Seidel v. City of Waterbury

recognizing that § 52-577 is an occurrence statute and the time to bring an action begins to run the moment the act, injury or omission complained of occurs

Summary of this case from Cohen v. Rosenthal

describing tortious interference with contract

Summary of this case from Wallingford Shopping v. Lowe's Home Center

applying § 52-577 to tortious interference with contractual relations

Summary of this case from Rossman v. Morasco

In Collum, the court stated that the actions alleged in a claim for tortious interference with employment could not have taken place following the date employment ended.

Summary of this case from American Diamond Exchange, Inc. v. Alpert

In Collum, as in the present case, the plaintiff argued that the continuous course of conduct doctrine tolled the limitations period contained in § 52-577 and attempted to rely on an affidavit, filed as part of his opposition to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, which stated that the defendants continued to engage in tortious conduct.

Summary of this case from Labow v. Rubin

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

Summary of this case from Mesner v. Cheap Auto Rental

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

Summary of this case from Arbusto v. Perkins

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

Summary of this case from Blumes v. Allstate Insurance Co.

In Collum, the Appellate Court upheld the decision of the trial court not to consider the plaintiff's claim of a continuing course of conduct where the plaintiff did not allege in his complaint that the defendants engaged in any activity sub sequent to the original act complained of. Id., 453.

Summary of this case from HARTE NISSAN INC. v. MARKET SCAN

concerning General Statutes § 52-577, only facts material to court's decision on summary judgment motion are dates of alleged wrongful conduct and date action was filed

Summary of this case from Pereira v. Maresca

In Collum v. Chapin, 40 Conn. 449 (1996), plaintiff opposed summary judgment by stating the defendants had engaged in a continuous course of conduct which tolled the statute of limitations.

Summary of this case from Sandvig v. A. Dubreuil Sons, Inc.

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

Summary of this case from Doe v. Boy Scouts of America

In Collum v. Chapin, 40 conn. App. 449, 450 n. 2, 671 A.2d 1329 (1996), the court stated, "the plaintiff's deposition testimony... is sufficient to support entry of summary judgment in the absence of contradictory competent affidavits that establish a genuine issue of material fact."

Summary of this case from Pension Benefit v. Thompson

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

Summary of this case from Caldrello v. Gordon
Case details for

Collum v. Chapin

Case Details

Full title:REX K. COLLUM v. ALAN CHAPIN ET AL

Court:Appellate Court of Connecticut

Date published: Mar 5, 1996

Citations

40 Conn. App. 449 (Conn. App. Ct. 1996)
671 A.2d 1329

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