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Ferrara v. Willard Road, LLC

Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford
Sep 12, 2001
2001 Ct. Sup. 12728 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2001)


No. CV 98 0167924

September 12, 2001


In a complaint dated September 4, 1998, the plaintiff, Nancy Ferrara, brought this premises liability action against the defendant, Willard Road, LLC. The plaintiff alleges that on October 16, 1996, she was descending the stairway from the main floor to the basement at 19 Willard Road in Norwalk when she fell to the bottom of the stairwell due to its defective condition. The plaintiff also alleges that the defendant is the owner of the premises and retained control of all stairways in the premises. The plaintiff further alleges that her fall and subsequent injuries were due to the negligence and carelessness of the defendant.

The defendant filed a revised answer and special defenses to the plaintiff's claim. The defendant's second special defense alleges that the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA), General Statutes § 31-275 et seq., is the plaintiff's exclusive remedy and, therefore, bars the plaintiff's action.

The plaintiff filed motion #109 to strike this special defense on the ground that it is legally insufficient because the defendant is not the plaintiff's employer or co-employee and, therefore, the WCA is inapplicable. "A party wanting to contest the legal sufficiency of a special defense may do so by filing a motion to strike." Barasso v. Rear Still Hill Road, LLC, 64 Conn. App. 9, 13, ___ A.2d ___ (2001)."The purpose of a special defense is to plead facts that are consistent with the allegations of the complaint but demonstrate, nonetheless, that the plaintiff has no cause of action." (Internal quotation marks omitted.)Danbury v. Dana Investment Corp., 249 Conn. 1, 17, 730 A.2d 1128 (1999); see also Practice Book § 10-50. "In . . . ruling on the . . . motion to strike, the trial court recognize[s] its obligation to take the facts to be those alleged in the special defenses and to construe the defenses in the manner most favorable to sustaining their legal sufficiency."Connecticut National Bank v. Douglas, 221 Conn. 530, 536, 606 A.2d 684 (1992).

The plaintiff argues in pursuit of her motion to strike that according to General Statutes § 31-284 (a), the defendant must be the plaintiff's employer in order to trigger the WCA. The plaintiff contends, however, that she is bringing an action pursuant to General Statutes § 31-293 (a), which permits actions against third parties. The plaintiff argues that the WCA does not preclude her suit against the defendant, a third party. Moreover, the plaintiff contends that the defendant does not plead specific facts stating that the WCA bars her action against the defendant, but rather alleges mere conclusory allegations. The plaintiff asserts, therefore, that her motion to strike should be granted.

Connecticut General Statutes § 31-284 (a) states in pertinent part that: "An employer . . . shall not be liable for any action for damages on account of personal injury sustained by an employee arising out of and in the course of his employment. . . . but an employer shall secure compensation for his employees as provided under this chapter . . . (Emphasis added.)

Connecticut General Statutes § 31-293 (a) states in pertinent part that: "When any injury for which compensation is payable under the provisions of this chapter has been sustained under circumstances creating in a person other than an employer . . . a legal liability to pay damages for the injury, the injured employee may claim compensation under the provisions of this chapter, but the payment or award of compensation shall not affect the claim or right of action of the injured employee against such person, but the injured employee may proceed at law against such person to recover damages for the injury . . . (Emphasis added.)

General Statutes § 31-284 (a) states that the Workers Compensation Act is an injured employee's exclusive remedy. In contrast, General Statutes § 31-293 (a) states that an injured employee may claim compensation under the Act and, when appropriate, the injured employee still may bring an action at law against third parties.

The defendant responds that Concord Industries, Inc. (Concord), the company which employed the plaintiff at the time of the accident, is a five percent owner of the defendant limited liability company. Consequently, the defendant argues that the WCA is the plaintiff's exclusive remedy as essentially the plaintiff is bringing a claim against her employer. The defendant contends, therefore, that the motion to strike should be denied.

General Statutes § 31-275 (10) defines "employer" for the purposes of the Workers' Compensation statutes as follows: "`Employer' means any person, corporation, limited liability company, firm, partnership, voluntary association, joint stock association, the state and any public corporation within the state using the services of one or more employees for pay, or the legal representative of any such employer . . .

"The entire statutory scheme of the Workers' Compensation Act is directed toward those who are in the employer-employee relationship as those terms are defined in the act and discussed in our cases." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Dowling v. Slotnik, 244 Conn. 781, 800, 712 A.2d 396 (1998). "Because only employees are entitled to compensation under the act, it is clear that coverage must arise from a contract of employment, either express or implied." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Chute v. Mobil Shiooing Transportation Co., 32 Conn. App. 16, 19, 627 A.2d 956, cert. denied, 227 Conn. 919, 632 A.2d 688 (1993).

In the present case, the defendant has alleged in its second special defense that the plaintiff's employer at the time of the accident, Concord, has an ownership interest of five percent in the defendant company. Moreover, the court is mindful of the fact that it must look upon the defendant's allegations in a manner most favorable to sustaining its legal sufficiency. See Connecticut National Bank v. Douglas, supra, 221 Conn. 536. Consequently, the defendant has alleged with sufficient specificity that it is the plaintiff's employer by virtue of its partial ownership by Concord and, therefore, the defendant's second special defense may stand. Accordingly, the plaintiff's motion to strike the defendant's second special defense is denied.

Dated at Stamford, Connecticut, this 6th day of September, 2001.

William B. Lewis, Judge T.R.

Summaries of

Ferrara v. Willard Road, LLC

Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford
Sep 12, 2001
2001 Ct. Sup. 12728 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2001)
Case details for

Ferrara v. Willard Road, LLC

Case Details


Court:Connecticut Superior Court, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford

Date published: Sep 12, 2001


2001 Ct. Sup. 12728 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2001)

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