Carroll v. Yankwitt

Decision Date30 March 2021
Docket NumberAC 39693, (AC 42730)
Citation203 Conn.App. 449,250 A.3d 696
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals
Parties Charles CARROLL v. George B. YANKWITT

Thomas J. O'Neill, Stamford, with whom were Jennifer L. Shukla, and, on the brief, Bryan J. Orticelli, for the appellant in Docket No. AC 39693 and cross appellee in Docket No. AC 42730 (defendant).

Brenden P. Leydon, Stamford, with whom, on the brief, was Mark Sank, for the appellee in Docket No. AC 39693 and cross appellant in Docket No. AC 42730 (plaintiff).

Prescott, Elgo and Moll, Js.

ELGO, J.

In this landlord-tenant dispute, the defendant, George B. Yankwitt, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered following a trial before an attorney trial referee, in favor of the plaintiff, Charles Carroll. On appeal, the defendant claims that the court improperly concluded that (1) he violated General Statutes (Rev. to 2013) § 47a-21, commonly known as the security deposit statute,1 (2) he violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA), General Statutes § 42-110a et seq., and (3) he was not entitled to certain damages under the lease agreements between the parties. The plaintiff cross appeals, claiming that the court abused its discretion by (1) declining to award him the full amount of attorney's fees he requested and (2) failing to rule on his request for punitive damages pursuant to CUTPA. With respect to the defendant's claims, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court. With respect to the plaintiff's cross appeal, we vacate the order of the trial court regarding its award of attorney's fees and decline to address the plaintiff's claim regarding punitive damages.

The following relevant facts were found by the attorney trial referee and adopted by the court or otherwise are undisputed. At all relevant times, the defendant owned real property known as 209 Dolphin Cove Quay in Stamford (property) and had no prior experience as a landlord. In early 2011, the plaintiff entered into a written agreement to lease the property from the defendant for a period of approximately twelve months until May 31, 2012 (first lease).2 The plaintiff commenced occupancy of the property on May 25, 2011. As the attorney trial referee expressly found, the parties subsequently communicated via e-mail correspondence "throughout and after the plaintiff's tenancy."

The parties executed a second lease agreement on March 1, 2012 (second lease). The term of that lease ran from June 1, 2012, to May 31, 2013. In accordance therewith, the plaintiff tendered payment of $8000 to the defendant as a security deposit. With respect to that payment, the second lease provides in relevant part: "[The defendant] will hold the [s]ecurity [d]eposit in accordance with the provisions of § 47a-21 .... If [the plaintiff] has carried out [his] promises under this [l]ease, [the defendant] shall return the [s]ecurity [d]eposit to [the plaintiff] within thirty (30) days after the termination of [the plaintiff's] tenancy.... If [the plaintiff] does not carry out [his] promises under this [l]ease, [the defendant] may use the [s]ecurity [d]eposit to pay the [r]ent or to repay [the defendant] for any damages [the defendant] has [sustained] because of [the plaintiff's] broken promises.... If [the defendant] keeps all or any part of [the plaintiff's] [s]ecurity [d]eposit, [the defendant] will, within the time required by law, give [the plaintiff] a list itemizing the nature and amount of the damages [the defendant] has suffered because of [the plaintiff's] broken promises."

The plaintiff's tenancy concluded on May 31, 2013. On that date, the defendant conducted an inspection of the property with the plaintiff's brother-in-law, James Rumberger. Later that afternoon, the defendant sent the plaintiff an e-mail, in which he noted various "damage issues" that he had observed and asked the plaintiff to "[p]lease let me know by tomorrow ... whether you are going to assume responsibility for repairing these [issues]." Although the plaintiff at trial acknowledged that he received that e-mail, there is no indication in the record that he ever responded to the defendant.3

On June 14, 2013, the defendant sent a detailed e-mail to the plaintiff regarding the plaintiff's alleged failure to comply with the terms of the lease agreements. In that correspondence, the defendant set forth seven specific items of damage to the property for which the plaintiff allegedly was responsible. The defendant also alleged that he had incurred $1422.86 in remediation expenses for the property and had sustained a loss of $10,000 due to his inability to rent the property for the month of June as a result of the damages caused by the plaintiff. The defendant further alleged that the plaintiff "never paid rent ... for [his] occupancy of the [property] for the period commencing May 25, 2012, and ending May 31, 2012, or one week," which allegedly resulted in a $2000 loss to the defendant. At trial, the plaintiff acknowledged that he received the defendant's June 14, 2013 e-mail correspondence.

At the direction of his attorney, the plaintiff sent the defendant a letter via certified mail, return receipt requested, the next day, June 15, 2013. In that one sentence letter, the plaintiff provided his forwarding address to the defendant "for return of the $8000 security deposit under the [second] lease ...." That letter was addressed to 26 Homeside Lane in White Plains, New York, which was specified in the second lease as the defendant's address.4 On July 28, 2013, the United States Postal Service returned that certified mailing to the plaintiff with the notation, "Return to Sender Unclaimed Unable to Forward," affixed thereon.

The plaintiff commenced this civil action four days later. His complaint contained three counts, all of which concerned the defendant's alleged failure to return his security deposit. In the first count, the plaintiff sought to recover his $8000 security deposit, along with interest and double damages pursuant to § 47a-21 (d) (2). In the second and third counts, the plaintiff alleged unjust enrichment and a CUTPA violation, respectively, stemming from the defendant's retention of the security deposit.5

In answering that complaint, the defendant admitted that the parties had entered into the second lease and that the plaintiff had provided the $8000 security deposit. The defendant nevertheless denied the substance of all three counts of the plaintiff's complaint, stating: "[The defendant] denies the allegations ... and further responds by stating that: (a) [the defendant] did not neglect to return the security deposit; (b) prior to the expiration of the term of the [second] lease, [the defendant] gave [the plaintiff] written notice of [the plaintiff's] failure and refusal to abide by the [l]ease; (c) within thirty (30) days of the end of the term of the [l]ease and [the plaintiff] vacating the premises, [the defendant] gave written notice of [the plaintiff's] failure and refusal to abide by the provisions of the [l]ease and the damages sustained by [the defendant] as a result thereof; (d) [the plaintiff] has not responded to various writings sent by [the defendant] itemizing damages sustained by [the defendant] as a result of [the plaintiff's] failure and refusal to abide by the provisions of the [l]ease; and (e) the damages sustained by [the defendant] as a result of [the plaintiff's] failure and refusal to abide by the provisions of the [l]ease are greater than the amount of the security deposit." The defendant further alleged that the plaintiff "has not complied with ... statutes relating to security deposits ...."

In addition, the defendant raised three special defenses, alleging that (1) the court lacked personal jurisdiction over him, (2) the plaintiff had failed to provide "notice of an address to which the security deposit purportedly ought to be sent," and (3) the defendant provided the plaintiff "notice of the damages sustained by [the defendant] as a result of [the plaintiff's] failure and refusal to abide by the terms of the [second lease]" within thirty days of the expiration of that lease. The defendant also asserted a six count counterclaim against the plaintiff related to his alleged failure to abide by the terms of the second lease.6

A three day trial was held before the attorney trial referee in 2015, at which both parties testified.7 The plaintiff presented documentary and testimonial evidence that he sent notice of his forwarding address to the defendant via certified mail. On that issue, the defendant testified that he "never received that letter, or any notice of a certified letter being sent to [him] by anyone" and that he never received notice that a certified letter "needed to be picked up."

The parties offered conflicting testimony on various damage to the property allegedly sustained during the plaintiff's tenancy. The defendant offered the testimony of Michael Curley, a licensed home improvement contractor, regarding repairs that he performed at the property in 2013. The plaintiff called Rumberger as a rebuttal witness, who had attended the inspection of the property with the defendant on May 31, 2013, and testified as to the alleged damage to the property. Rumberger also offered testimony regarding a video of the property that he filmed on that date, which was played at trial and admitted into evidence as an exhibit.

In his subsequent report, the attorney trial referee found that the plaintiff had proven that he sent notice of his forwarding address to the defendant and that the defendant "presented no evidence or reason excusing his failure to collect the [c]ertified [m]ail sent to him by the plaintiff." The attorney trial referee further found that, in light of the mailbox rule,8 "it must be concluded that the properly addressed and mailed letter was received, and ... the defendant's lack of collection was intentional."

The...

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  • Herron v. Daniels
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • October 5, 2021
    ...of the security deposit statute, our review is plenary." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Carroll v. Yankwitt , 203 Conn. App. 449, 465, 250 A.3d 696 (2021).We begin by addressing the defendant's argument that the court erroneously determined that she violated § 47a-21 ......
  • Connex Credit Union v. Thibodeau
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • November 30, 2021
    ...the requirement of timely preservation of issues." (Emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted.) Carroll v. Yankwitt , 203 Conn. App. 449, 479 n.23, 250 A.3d 696 (2021). This court previously has declined to review a claim raised for the first time in a posttrial brief because d......
  • Freidburg v. Kurtz
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • September 20, 2021
    ...a question of fact, which we review under the clearly erroneous standard." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Carroll v. Yankwitt , 203 Conn. App. 449, 465, 250 A.3d 696 (2021). "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous when there is no evidence in the record to support it ... or when althou......

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