Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC v. Ganim, AC 30549

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtLAVINE
Decision Date30 August 2011
PartiesBRIDGEPORT HARBOUR PLACE I, LLC v. JOSEPH P. GANIM ET AL.
Docket NumberAC 30549

BRIDGEPORT HARBOUR PLACE I, LLC
v.
JOSEPH P. GANIM ET AL.

AC 30549

COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

August 30, 2011


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Page 2

DiPentima, C. J., and Lavine and Flynn, Js.

Argued February 15—officially released August 30, 2011

(Appeal from Superior Court, judicial district of
Waterbury, Complex Litigation Docket, Alander, J.
[motions to strike]; Stevens, J. [motions for summary
judgment; motions to preclude; motion for
reconsideration; motions for directed verdict; motion
for additur; motion to set aside verdict; motion for
attorney's fees, punitive damages; judgment].)

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

Jeffrey J. Mirman, with whom were John F. Droney, Jr., and, on the brief, Kurt F. Zimmermann and Leonard K. Atkinson, for the appellee-cross appellant (named defendant).

Ira B. Grudberg, with whom were C. Christian Young and, on the brief, Trisha M. Morris and Allison M. Near, for the appellee-cross appellant (defendant Alfred Lenoci, Sr., et al.).

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

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Opinion

LAVINE, J. This appeal is one of several arising out of the proposed redevelopment of waterfront property in Bridgeport (city) known as Steel Point.1 The plaintiff, Bridgeport Harbour Place I, LLC, appeals, and certain defendants2 cross appeal from the judgment of the trial court, rendered after a trial to a jury, for breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relations (tortious interference), violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), General Statutes § 42-110a et seq., and other wrongdoing. On appeal, the plaintiff claims that it was improper for the trial court (1) to grant motions in limine precluding it from presenting evidence of (a) lost profits, (b) lost overhead and (c) bribery and other wrongdoing, and (2) to limit the evidence it considered in awarding punitive damages.

In their cross appeal, the defendants Alfred Lenoci, Sr., Alfred Lenoci, Jr., United Properties, Ltd., and Crescent Avenue Development Company (Lenoci defendants) claim that it was improper for the court to deny their motions for a directed verdict and to set aside the verdict as a result of concluding that the plaintiff's action was not barred by (1) the doctrine of collateral estoppel and (2) the statute of limitations. In his cross appeal, the defendant Joseph P. Ganim claims that it was improper for the court to (1) award excessive and unreasonable punitive damages, (2) conclude that there was sufficient evidence to prove fraudulent misrepresentation and (3) conclude that the action is not barred by the statute of limitations, General Statutes § 52-577. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.3

The plaintiff's second revised complaint sounds in ten counts alleged against eighteen defendants.4 The court summarized the litigation in its thorough January 25, 2008 memorandum of decision in which it ruled on the defendants' motions in limine to preclude evidence of lost profits.5 ''The gravamen of the complaint is the plaintiff's claim that the . . . city . . . breached a November, 1998 [development] agreement with the plaintiff concerning the plaintiff's development of Steel Point (also known as Harbour Place) located in Bridgeport. Among its claims, the plaintiff alleges that . . . Ganim, the then [mayor of the city], had a secret plan with other defendants to oust the plaintiff as the developer of the project so that it could be replaced by the defendant United Properties, Ltd. United Properties, Ltd., was owned or controlled by . . . Lenoci, Sr., and . . . Lenoci, Jr. The complaint charges that the Lenocis had agreed to pay bribes to Ganim in exchange for the selection of United Properties, Ltd., as the developer of Steel Point. . . . The complaint alleges that the city wrongfully terminated the agreement and that the other defendants either participated in the corrupt scheme or wrongly facilitated it.'' (Citation omitted.) In its

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prayer for relief, the plaintiff sought, among other things, ''compensatory damages incurred by the plaintiff for expenses incurred, costs in excess of $5 million and lost profits in excess of $100 million . . . .''6

In the same memorandum of decision, the court summarized undisputed facts, quoting frequently from the development agreement. ''In November, 1998, the plaintiff, the city and the United Illuminating Company entered into a development agreement regarding the development of Steel Point. According to the complaint . . . this [development] agreement was executed 'after more than a year of protracted negotiations and delays.' The completion of the agreement required satisfaction of numerous conditions, studies and financial and regulatory requirements. These conditions included approvals from the Connecticut development authority, the state of Connecticut bond commission, the Bridgeport city council, as well as from 'all required City officials and entities' and 'other state authorities as required by law.' . . . After full performance of the development agreement, the precise cost, financial obligations and construction 'plans, specifications timetable and . . . standards' of the construction would be set forth in either a restated agreement or a land disposition agreement. . . .

''In summary, the development agreement was a very extensive and detailed preliminary understanding which contemplated the negotiation and execution of subsequent property conveyance and construction contracts after substantial preparatory and investigatory work had been completed and after the 'amount of public funding [had] been more definitively ascertained and at such time as the Parties [had] achieved a more definite assessment of the precise cost of developing the Project.'7 Thus, the exact obligations and responsibilities of the parties regarding the actual construction and completion of the project were not addressed in the [development] agreement but would be established in a restated agreement or the land disposition agreement, which the parties would negotiate and finalize after completion of the development agreement.

''The development agreement was amended three times, but its requirements were never completed. In or about 2000 or 2001, the city terminated the [development] agreement. . . . [T]he complaint alleges that this termination was a breach of the city's obligations under the [development] agreement. The complaint further alleges [that] the plaintiff's ability to perform or complete the [development] agreement fully or satisfactorily was frustrated and interfered with by the criminal or corrupt conduct of the other defendants. These claims are denied by the defendants . . . . Assuming, arguendo, the plaintiff's allegations of the defendants' wrongful conduct, there is no dispute that when the development agreement was terminated, all of the con-

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ditions and requirements of the [development] agreement had not been met. All the governmental approvals or permits, particularly from the city council and the state bonding commission, had not been obtained. No contracts for the transfer and construction of the property, either through a restated agreement or a land disposition agreement, had been negotiated or finalized.''8 (Citations omitted.)

Jury selection commenced on February 6, 2008, and the jury returned its verdict on June 6, 2008.9 The jury found in favor of the plaintiff against the Lenoci defendants, Ganim and Kasper Group, Inc., awarding the plaintiff $366,524 in damages.10 The plaintiff filed a motion to set the verdict aside, claiming, in part, that the verdict as to Ganim, the Lenoci defendants and Kasper Group, Inc., was inadequate. The plaintiff also claimed that the court improperly precluded testimony from its expert witness, Ira Kaplan, as to overhead damages, and evidence of its lost profits, and limited the scope of evidence presented regarding a conspiracy and the specific acts of conspiracy...

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