Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim

Decision Date11 November 2008
Docket NumberNo. 28767.,28767.
Citation111 Conn.App. 197,958 A.2d 210
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
PartiesBRIDGEPORT HARBOUR PLACE I, LLC v. Joseph P. GANIM et al.

William F. Gallagher, with whom, on the brief, were Hugh D. Hughes, William J. Sweeney, New Britain, and R. Bartley Halloran, Farmington, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Kurt F. Zimmerman, with whom, on the brief, was Leonard K. Atkinson, New Haven, for the appellee (named defendant).

Sandra L. Snaden, with whom, was Hubert J. Santos, Hartford, for the appellee (defendant Charles J. Willinger, Jr., et al.).

Trisha M. Morris, with whom, on the brief, was Ira B. Grudberg, New Haven, for the appellees (defendant Alfred Lenoci, Sr., et al.).

C. Christian Young, Bridgeport, for the appellee (defendant Alfred Lenoci, Jr., et al.).

Thomas L. Kanasky, Jr., Bridgeport, for the appellee (defendant Joseph T. Kasper, Jr.).

Jeffrey J. White, with whom, on the brief, were Craig A. Raabe and Edward J. Heath, Hartford, for the appellee (defendant city of Bridgeport).

David J. Hatem, pro hac vice, Deborah S. Russo and Patricia B. Gary, pro hac vice, Boston, MA, filed a brief for the appellee (defendant HNTB Corporation).

McLACHLAN, ROBINSON and HENNESSY, Js.

McLACHLAN, J.

The plaintiff, Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC, appeals from the judgment of the trial court rendered following the granting of the motions to strike the amended complaint filed by the defendants Joseph P. Ganim; the city of Bridgeport; Alfred Lenoci, Sr.; Alfred Lenoci, Jr.; United Properties, Ltd.; 815 Lafayette Centre, LLC; United Investments, LLC; United Environmental Redevelopment, LLC; Crescent Avenue Development Company, LLC; Charles J. Willinger, Jr.; Willinger, Willinger & Bucci, P.C.; Joseph T. Kasper, Jr.; Kasper Group, Inc.; and Michael Schinella.1 The plaintiff claims that its antitrust action improperly was stricken because it had alleged a relevant market and sufficient facts to support its claim of anticompetitive or monopolistic behavior in that market. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The following procedural history and facts, as alleged in the plaintiff's amended complaint, are relevant to our resolution of the issues on appeal. In May, 1997, the city of Bridgeport requested proposals for the site development of a section of waterfront property known as Steel Point. A development proposal submitted by Bridgeport Renaissance Center, later renamed Harbour Place Limited Partnership and subsequently acquired by the plaintiff, was chosen by the city for the project. On November 18, 1998, the city and the plaintiff signed a development agreement. The plaintiff could not fulfill its obligations under the contract, however, due to the successive withdrawals of several financing partners, and the city terminated the contract in March, 2001.

According to the plaintiff, it was prevented from completing the development activities specified in the contract by the unlawful conduct of the defendants. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the city's mayor, Ganim, engaged in a contract steering scheme in which his coconspirators, Leonard Grimaldi and Paul Pinto, demanded bribes and kickbacks from businesses seeking city contracts and then divided the proceeds of those illegal payments with Ganim. After the contract had been awarded to the plaintiff, the plaintiff refused to participate in the scheme. Thereafter, Ganim and the other defendants allegedly conspired to deprive the plaintiff of its development rights, through corrupt and illegal means, for their own benefit. Because of the unreasonable delays, conditions and demands imposed on the plaintiff, its three financial partners withdrew from the project, and the plaintiff was unable to fulfill its contractual obligations. From the date it was chosen until it was discharged in March, 2001, the plaintiff had expended millions of dollars in its attempt to complete the project.

The plaintiff filed a one count complaint on October 19, 2004, claiming that the defendants violated the Connecticut Antitrust Act, General Statutes § 35-24 et seq., by engaging in an illegal conspiracy in restraint of trade. It sought treble damages pursuant to General Statutes § 35-35.2 Several of the defendants filed motions to strike the complaint on the ground that it failed to state a legally sufficient antitrust claim. The court, Alander, J., granted the motions, concluding that the plaintiff's original complaint failed to allege facts that would establish an actual adverse effect on competition as a whole in the relevant market and failed to allege facts that would constitute price discrimination in violation of General Statutes § 35-45.

The plaintiff timely filed an amended complaint. See Practice Book § 10-44. The amended complaint added one paragraph, alleging, in part, that "[t]he defendants' conduct had an actual adverse effect on competition as a whole in the relevant market of undertaking and completing commercial development in the City of Bridgeport in a timely, cost efficient manner."3 The other allegations in the amended complaint were the same as in the original complaint, and the plaintiff did not amend its allegations with respect to price discrimination.4

Six of the defendants filed motions to strike the plaintiff's amended complaint, claiming that the plaintiff failed to allege any additional facts that could constitute a cognizable antitrust claim. The court, Stevens, J., heard argument and issued its decision on March 5, 2007, granting the motions of those defendants. In its decision, the court concluded that the allegations in the added paragraph contained only legal or conclusory claims and did not provide a factual basis for an antitrust violation. Further, the court stated that, even if it is assumed that the relevant market was as alleged in the added paragraph, the plaintiff nevertheless failed to allege any facts of a specific nature that demonstrated that the defendants' conduct had an adverse effect on competition in that market. The court noted: "When taken as true, the facts set forth in the first amended complaint establish that the plaintiff lost its ability to develop a single property, Steel Point, due to the improper conduct of the various defendants. The plaintiff has not alleged any particular facts, however, that would indicate that this action prevented other competitors from developing Steel Point or other properties in Bridgeport under government contracts with the city of Bridgeport, or otherwise hindered competitors in such pursuits."

Subsequently, the remainder of the defendants filed motions to strike the amended complaint on identical grounds. The court granted the motions and, over a period of time, rendered judgment in favor of all of the defendants. This appeal followed.5

The standard of review in an appeal from the granting of a motion to strike is well established. "Because a motion to strike challenges the legal sufficiency of a pleading and, consequently, requires no factual findings by the trial court, our review of the court's ruling ... is plenary.... It is fundamental that in determining the sufficiency of a complaint challenged by a defendant's motion to strike, all well-pleaded facts and those facts necessarily implied from the allegations are taken as admitted." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Doe v. Yale University, 252 Conn. 641, 667, 748 A.2d 834 (2000). "For the purpose of ruling upon a motion to strike, the facts alleged in a complaint, though not the legal conclusions it may contain, are deemed to be admitted." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Murillo v. Seymour Ambulance Assn., Inc., 264 Conn. 474, 476, 823 A.2d 1202 (2003). "A motion to strike is properly granted if the complaint alleges mere conclusions of law that are unsupported by the facts alleged." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Fort Trumbull Conservancy, LLC v. Alves, 262 Conn. 480, 498, 815 A.2d 1188 (2003).

The plaintiff's first claim on appeal is that the amended complaint properly alleged a relevant market. "[P]roper analysis in an antitrust case first requires determination of the relevant market.... The relevant market for purposes of antitrust litigation is the area of effective competition within which the defendant operates. ... Market definition generally is a deeply fact-intensive inquiry...." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Miller's Pond Co., LLC v. New London, 273 Conn. 786, 814, 873 A.2d 965 (2005). In the present case, the court assumed for purposes of the motions to strike that the relevant market was "commercial development in the city of Bridgeport," as alleged by the plaintiff. The court did not make any conclusions as to that issue. Because it is such a fact intensive issue, it would be the plaintiff's burden to establish the relevant market at the time of trial instead of at this stage of the proceedings. Because the court did not grant the motions to strike on the ground that the plaintiff failed to allege a relevant market, it is not necessary to address this claim.

The plaintiff next claims that the court should not have granted the motions to strike because it properly alleged anticompetitive or monopolistic behavior in that market. Specifically, the plaintiff argues that its allegation that the defendants' conspiracy to exclude competitors in the relevant market had an actual adverse effect on competition was sufficient to allege an antitrust injury pursuant to the state's antitrust act. We disagree.

General Statutes § 35-44b provides that in construing the Connecticut Antitrust Act, "the courts of this state shall be guided by interpretations given by the federal courts to federal antitrust statutes." "Accordingly, we follow federal precedent when we interpret the [Connecticut Antitrust Act] unless the text of our antitrust statutes, or other pertinent state law, requires us to interpret it...

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21 cases
  • Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • August 30, 2011
    ...claim.'' The court, Stevens, J., granted the motions to strike, and the plaintiff appealed. See Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 111 Conn. App. 197, 201, 958 A.2d 210 (2008) (affirming decision of trial court), cert. granted, 290 Conn. 906, 962 A.2d 793 (2009) (''Did the Appellate ......
  • Bridgeport Harbour Place I v. Ganim
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • August 30, 2011
    ...claim.” The court, Stevens, J., granted the motions to strike, and the plaintiff appealed. See Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 111 Conn.App. 197, 201, 958 A.2d 210 (2008) (affirming decision of trial court), cert. granted, 290 Conn. 906, 962 A.2d 793 (2009) (“Did the Appellate Cou......
  • Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • December 13, 2011
    ...injury. The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court, which affirmed the trial court's judgment. Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 111 Conn.App. 197, 210, 958 A.2d 210 (2008). We granted the plaintiff's petition for certification to appeal limited to the following issue: “Did the A......
  • Himmelstein v. Town of Windsor
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • July 29, 2009
    ...complaint and therefore was not before the court when deciding the motion to strike. See, e.g., Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 111 Conn.App. 197, 201-203, 958 A.2d 210 (2008). 9. We note that as a general rule, "[u]nder our pleading practice, a plaintiff is permitted to advance a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Connecticut. Practice Text
    • United States
    • ABA Antitrust Library State Antitrust Practice and Statutes (FIFTH). Volume I
    • December 9, 2014
    ...280. See Bridgeport Harbor Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 2007 WL 865800 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2007). 281. Bridgeport Harbor Place I, LLC v. Ganim, 958 A.2d 210, 213, 216-17 (Conn. 2008). 282. Id . at 217. 283. Id . at 218 (citing Connecticut Practice Book § 10-2). Connecticut 8-39 but, rather, its fai......
  • 2008 Connecticut Appellate Review
    • United States
    • Connecticut Bar Association Connecticut Bar Journal No. 83, 2009
    • Invalid date
    ...106 Conn. App. 493, 942 A.2d 1071, cert denied, 287 Conn. 906, 950 A.2d 1283 (2008). 143. 109 Conn. App. 477, 952 A.2d 825 (2008). 144. 111 Conn. App. 197, 958A.2d 210 (2008). 145. 105 Conn. App. 546, 938 A.2d 1269, cert. denied, 286 Conn. 914, 945 A.2d 976 (2008). 146. 106 Conn. App. 562, ......

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