Connecticut Supreme Court

In a unanimous decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed the Trial Court and held in Bilbao v. Goodwin that a storage agreement was valid and enforceable whereby the parties checked a box to discard pre-embryos in the event of their divorce. Many fertility facilities use check box or other types of storage agreements; however, there has always been some question as to how a court would enforce such agreements. In this case, the Supreme Court answered that question in a limited context.
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We are into the second week of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s 2017-2018 year. Here’s a look at this week’s cases:

Monday, September 18th

The first case is Francini v. Goodspeed Airport, LLC, SC 19705, where the Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court properly held that an easement by necessity for a landlocked parcel is not limited only to ingress and egress. The trial court had rejected the plaintiff’s claim that his property’s easement by necessity to access a public highway also included a right of way to access commercial utilities and the Appellate Court reversed.

The second case is State v. Urbanowki, SC 19678, where the Court will consider whether evidence that the defendant in a strangulation prosecution had previously attempted to choke another woman was harmless error.

Tuesday, September 19th

As part of its public education goals, each year the Connecticut Supreme Court holds an “On Circuit” program where it hears oral arguments at an area law school, college, or high school. This year, the venue for the “On Circuit” program will be the University of New Haven and two cases will be argued.

The first case is Brooks v. Powers, SC 19727, which addresses governmental immunity. The plaintiff is the estate of a woman whose body washed up on the shore. A report had been made to the local police department that she was near the ocean during a severe storm and in need of medical attention, but no one responded. The issue is whether the imminent harm, identifiable victim exception to discretionary act immunity applies. The trial court had concluded that it does, granting summary judgment. A divided panel of the Appellate Court reversed.

The second case, State v. Panek, 19772, is about the meaning of the “not in plain view” element of the video voyeurism statute and, specifically, whether it must be evaluated from the perspective of the defendant or the public at-large. The trial court concluded that the former was the correct test, and granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss because the alleged victims were in his immediate physical presence. The State appealed and the Appellate Court affirmed, agreeing with the trial court.


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The Connecticut Supreme Court ‘s 2017-2018 sitting kicks off on Monday. From September 11th through September 28th, the Court will hear oral arguments in nineteen cases. Here’s a look at first week:

Monday, September 11th

The new year starts with a divorce case and a zoning case. In Reinke v. Sing, SC 19687, the Supreme Court will consider whether a family court, without a finding of fraud, has jurisdiction to open a dissolution judgment several years after it was entered based on a party’s failure to disclose certain assets at the time of the divorce. The case has garnered interest from the Connecticut Bar Association and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which both urge for a reversal of the Appellate Court’s decision which had determined that, absent a finding of fraud, the trial court was without jurisdiction to open the dissolution judgment.

The second case is Piece of Paradise, LLC v. Borough of Fenwick Zoning of Appeals, SC 19890, a zoning a dispute over property related to actress Katherine Hepburn’s former Fenwick Estate “Paradise” set on Long Island Sound and built in 1939. At issue is whether the zoning board’s denial of a variance from a 2011 amendment to the zoning regulations, which imposed new setback requirements that effectively barred the property owner from building a single-family home on a parcel that was formerly part of a larger parcel containing the Hepburn home, constitutes a regulatory taking of property.


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In Munn v. The Hotchkiss School, the Second Circuit certified two questions to the Connecticut Supreme Court to help it decide an appeal from a $41.5 million jury verdict awarded to a student who contracted a serious tick-borne disease while on a month-long study abroad program in China:  (1) does Connecticut public policy support imposing a duty on a school to warn or protect against the risk of serious insect-borne disease when it organizes a trip abroad; and (2) if so, does an award of approximately $41.5 million in favor of the plaintiff, $31.5 million of which are  noneconomic damages, warrant remittitur?  For our prior coverage of the arguments, click here.

On August 11, 2017, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued its decision, concluding that Connecticut public policy supports a school’s duty to warn and protect students from serious tick-borne disease on a school-sponsored trip abroad. The Court reiterated the well-established duty of Connecticut schools with custody of minor children to use reasonable care to protect those children from foreseeable harms during school sponsored activities.  The Court found no compelling reason to create an exception to this rule for “foreseeable insect-borne diseases.”

In deciding whether to create such an exception, the Court evaluated four public policy factors: (1) the normal expectations of the participants; (2) balancing the public policy of encouraging participation in the activity against the safety of the participants; (3) avoidance of increased litigation; and (4) decisions in other jurisdictions.


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Argument Recap:  Munn v. The Hotchkiss School, SC 19525

The Connecticut Supreme Court heard oral argument this term in Munn v. The Hotchkiss School to decide whether Connecticut public policy supports imposing a duty on a school to warn about or protect against a serious insect-borne disease when it organizes a trip abroad.

The case