Photo of Elizabeth J. Stewart

Elizabeth Stewart is a trial lawyer, principally handling policyholder-side insurance coverage and complex commercial litigation. She recovers insurance proceeds and defense costs for policyholders facing large exposures and liabilities. Elizabeth has secured defense costs, judgments and settlements both through negotiations and lawsuits. Elizabeth also handles other types of complex commercial disputes, including antitrust and unfair trade practice claims, shareholder disputes, securities, RICO, breach of contract and various business tort cases. In many of these cases, Elizabeth has gone to court at the outset to obtain or block an injunction or a prejudgment remedy. When it is in the best interest of her clients, Elizabeth has tried these cases to verdict and pursued appeals. She also has resolved matters through arbitration, mediation and private negotiations. Elizabeth was appointed by Connecticut's Chief Justice to Connecticut's Civil Commission.  She also helped draft the District of Connecticut’s Local Rules on E-Discovery. She also served on the Connecticut Superior Court Task Force on Discovery and Expedited Litigation and previously served on the Connecticut Civil Jury Instructions Task Force. Elizabeth served as Murtha Cullina’s Managing Partner from 2009 through 2014 and as Chair of the Firm’s litigation department from 1998 through 2006.

Ruling Recap: Gold v. Rowland, SC 19585

Last October, we reported on the issues at stake in Gold v. Rowland, the class action that claims that Connecticut state employees were members entitled to shares of stock when their insurer, Anthem, demutualized in 2001.  The employees had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the trial court’s ruling that (1) Anthem’s Articles of Incorporation should be considered together with other documents in the Anthem-Blue Cross merger, (2) those documents were ambiguous on the issue of whether the employees were members, and (3) extrinsic evidence showed that the parties intended for only the state, as the policyholder, to be a member.  Alternatively, the employees had argued that even if the documents were ambiguous, the trial court should not have considered extrinsic evidence and instead should have directly applied the rule of contra proferentem to interpret the documents against the drafter, Anthem, and in favor of the employees.  In a decision with an official release date of April 11, 2017, the Supreme Court rejected the employees’ arguments and affirmed the trial court.

Continue Reading The $100 Million Question is Answered With Extrinsic Evidence, Not Contra Proferentem

Argument Recap:  Channing Real Estate, LLC v. Gates, SC19575

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently heard argument in Channing Real Estate, LLC v. Gates, an appeal that rose out of a failed real estate development joint venture.  This case presents two issues of interest to Connecticut’s business community.  The first issue is whether the whole case needs to be retried after an appellate ruling that the parol evidence rule blocks evidence of prior and contemporaneous statements from varying the meaning of promissory notes.  The second issue is whether the payor on those notes can counterclaim under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”) when he was a member of a limited liability company that was working on a joint venture with the limited liability company that was the payee.  This post will focus on the application of CUTPA to joint ventures, which is an issue of first impression for the Supreme Court.

Since it was enacted in 1973, CUTPA has been the basis for countless lawsuits in part because it is one of the few vehicles that litigants can use to recover their attorneys’ fees and punitive damages. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 42-110g.  Indeed, the defendant in this lawsuit, Mr. Gates, was awarded his attorneys’ fees by the trial court even though he did not prove he was entitled to damages on his CUTPA claim.  The courts have interpreted CUTPA broadly, citing its remedial purpose, but they also have ruled that certain conduct cannot violate CUTPA because it is not “trade” or “commerce” as required under the statute.  One of those categories of conduct that is outside of the bounds of CUTPA is intra-corporate or intra-partnership disputes.  In its appeal, Channing Real Estate, LLC argues that this is a dispute between former joint venturers, and that therefore Mr. Gates cannot pursue his CUTPA counterclaim.  Although the appellate courts have ruled a few times on what is or is not an internal business dispute outside of the reach of CUTPA, this case presents a fresh opportunity to clarify whether CUTPA applies to disputes in business arrangements that are not corporations or partnerships.

Continue Reading Does CUTPA apply to negotiations?

Argument Recap:  Gold v. Rowland, SC 19585

The Supreme Court heard oral argument for a second time in the 15-year old lawsuit by a class of Connecticut state employees claiming that they were members entitled to shares of stock when their insurer, Anthem, demutualized in 2001.  At the time Anthem converted from a mutual to a stock corporation, Anthem determined that the State of Connecticut, as the group under the policies, was the member under Anthem’s Articles of Incorporation.  Therefore, the State received 1,645,773 shares of stock that it later sold for $93 million.  The employees claim that the Articles of Incorporation also deem them, as individual certificate holders under the group policy, to be members and that they should have received stock or cash.  Both Judge Sheldon and Judge Bright ruled on summary judgment that the Articles of Incorporation are ambiguous.  Judge Bright held a bench trial and issued a 90-page decision in which he ruled for Anthem that only the State was a member at the time of the demutualization.

Continue Reading The $100 Million Question: How to Interpret a Contract?