Cardona v. Valentin

Decision Date21 July 1970
Citation273 A.2d 697,160 Conn. 18
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesNicasio CARDONA, Sr., Administrator (ESTATE of Nicasio CARDONA, Jr.), et al. v. Modesto VALENTIN. Nicasio CARDONA, Sr., Administrator (Estate of Nicasio Cardona, Jr.), et al. v. Pedro MORALES.

John F. Papandrea, Meriden, for appellants (plaintiffs) in each case.

Gerald P. Dwyer, New Haven, with whom, on the brief, were Martin E. Gormley, Kevin T. Gormley and Irving H. Perlmutter, New Haven, for appellee (defendant) in each case.

Before ALCORN, C.J., and HOUSE, THIM, RYAN and SHAPIRO, JJ.

SHAPIRO, Associate Justice.

These two related actions arose out of the fatal stabbing of Nicasio Cardona, Jr., by Pedro Morales in a poolroom in Meriden, on January 24, 1964. At the time of the stabbing, Morales was employed at the manager of the poolroom by Modesto Valentin, who owned it. Nicasio Cardona, Sr., hereinafter referred to as the plaintiff, in an individual capacity and in his representative capacity as administrator of the estate of Cardona, Jr., brought an action, hereinafter referred to as the Valentin case, for money damages against Valentin, and an action, hereinafter referred to as the Morales case, for money damages against Morales. In the Valentin case, the court rendered judgment in favor of the defendant Valentin. In the Morales case, the defendant Morales failed to appear and a default judgment was rendered in favor of the plaintiff. From these judgments the plaintiff has appealed.

No attack has been made upon the court's finding of the following facts. Valentin owned a building in Meriden, on the first floor of which was a public poolroom with facilities for card playing, and on the second floor of which were the living quarters of Valentin and his wife. Valentin hired Morales to manage the poolroom. One of Morales' duties was the collection of the price of a pool game, which was ten cents. Another of his duties was to keep peace among the patrons of the poolroom. On Friday evening, January 24, 1964, Morales as usual was working in the poolroom without assistance. Cardona, Jr., arrived at the poolroom at about 8 o'clock and proceeded to play some games of pool. When Morales attempted to collect the ten-cent fee for an uncompleted game from Cardona, Jr., he refused to pay. An argument between them ensued, leading to an exchange of blows. Bystanders began to yell, and there was general bedlam. Valentin and his wife, who were upstairs, heard the commotion and came downstairs to the poolroom to investigate. They saw Morales and Cardona, Jr., fighting and, after endeavoring to separate them, succeeded in doing so with the assistance of bystanders. Valentin requested that Cardona, Jr., leave. Cardona, Jr., agreed to leave and started toward the door accompanied by Valentin and his wife. At this point the fight between Morales and Cardona, Jr., was over and the poolroom was quiet. As Cardona, Jr., and Valentin and his wife approached the door, it opened, and Angel Cardona, a brother of Cardona, Jr., together with some of his friends, walked into the poolroom. Valentin told Angel what had happened, and Angel announced that anyone who fought with his brother fought with him, adding, 'If we have to kill Pellin (Morales), we'll kill him.' Fighting then broke out anew. Angel and his friends started to throw various objects, and some of the patrons of the poolroom joined in the fight. Recognizing that the situation was out of control, Valentin went upstairs to his living quarters, where he telephoned the police for aid. While Valentin was upstairs telephoning the police, Morales fatally stabbed Cardona, Jr., with a knife he had on his person.

In both cases the plaintiff assigns as error certain of the conclusions reached by the court. These conclusions are to be tested by the findings. Brockett v. Jensen, 154 Conn. 328, 331, 225 A.2d 190; Craig v. Dunleavy, 154 Conn. 100, 105, 221 A.2d 855; Klahr v. Kostopoulos,138 Conn. 653, 655, 88 A.2d 332. They must stand unless they are legally or logically inconsistent with the facts found or unless they involve the application of some erroneous rule of law material to the case. Johnston Jewels, Ltd. v. Leonard, 156 Conn. 75, 79, 239 A.2d 500; Craig v. Dunleavy, supra.

In the Valentin case the plaintiff claims that he is entitled to damages from Valentin for the wrongful death of Cardona, Jr., on the theory that Valentin, as Morales' employer, is liable for his employee's wilful torts, such as the fatal stabbing of Cardona, Jr., committed within the scope of his employment and in furtherance of his employer's business. It is well established that an employer is liable for the wilful torts of his employee when they are committed within the scope of his employment and in furtherance of the employer's business. Pelletier v. Bilbiles, 154 Conn. 544, 547, 227 A.2d 251; Rappaport v. Rosen Film Delivery System, Inc., 127 Conn. 524, 526, 18 A.2d 362; Antinozzi v. A. Vincent Pepe Co., 117 Conn. 11, 13, 166 A. 392. Ordinarily, it is a question of fact whether the wilful tort of an employee has occurred within the scope of his employment and in furtherance of his employer's business. Rappaport v. Rosen Film Delivery System, Inc.,supra.

The plaintiff assigns as error the court's conclusion that Morales' fatal stabbing of Cardona, Jr., did not occur within the scope of Morales' employment as manager of the poolroom or in furtherance of Valentin's business. The court found that on the evening of January 24, 1964, two separate and distinct fights took place in the poolroom; that the first fight began when Morales attempted to collect the tencent fee for a pool game from Cardona, Jr., and he refused to pay; that the first fight ended when Valentin and his wife separated Morales and Cardona, Jr., who were exchanging blows, and Cardona, Jr., agreed to leave the poolroom; that the second fight began when Angel Cardona, together with some of his friends, entered the poolroom, spoke in a belligerent manner and began to throw various objects; and that Morales fatally stabbed Cardona, Jr., during the course of this second fight. From these facts the court reasonably concluded that the collection of the ten-cent fee for the pool game which set off the first fight was not an issue in, and was totally disconnected from, the second fight and that the second fight was set off by the arrival of Angel Cardona and his cohorts. The court's ultimate conclusion that Morales, when he stabbed Cardona, Jr., was not acting within the scope of his employment as manager of the poolroom or in furtherance of Valentin's business is legally and logically consistent with these conclusions and does not involve the application of an erroneous rule of law material to the case.

In the Valentin case the plaintiff also claims that he is entitled to damages from Valentin for the wrongful death of Cardona, Jr., on the theory that Valentin was negligent in not hiring more employees to assist in the management of the poolroom and in not having a telephone or other adequate alarm system in the poolroom which could be used to summon aid in the event of trouble. In this regard the court found that Friday and Saturday evenings were the busiest evenings in the poolroom; that January 24, 1964, was a Friday; that Valentin had no employees apart from Morales to assist in the management of the poolroom; that Morales was working...

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