Commissioner of Labor v. Walnut Tire Shop, LLC, 112420 CTCA, AC 42986

Docket Nº:AC 42986
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:COMMISSIONER OF LABOR v. WALNUT TIRE SHOP, LLC, ET AL.
Attorney:Ramiro Alcazar filed a brief for the appellants (defendants). Maria C. Rodriguez and Philip M. Schulz, assistant attorneys general, and William Tong, attorney general, filed a brief for the appellee (plaintiff).
Judge Panel:Lavine, Elgo and Alexander, Js.
Case Date:November 24, 2020
Court:Appellate Court of Connecticut

COMMISSIONER OF LABOR

v.

WALNUT TIRE SHOP, LLC, ET AL.

No. AC 42986

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

November 24, 2020

Submitted on briefs September 17, 2020

Procedural History

Action to collect, inter alia, unpaid wages, and for other relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial district of Hartford, where the defendants were defaulted for failure to appear; thereafter, the court, Gordon, J., rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff; subsequently, the court, Sheridan, J., denied the defendants' motion to open the judgment, and the defendants appealed to this court. Affirmed.

Ramiro Alcazar filed a brief for the appellants (defendants).

Maria C. Rodriguez and Philip M. Schulz, assistant attorneys general, and William Tong, attorney general, filed a brief for the appellee (plaintiff).

Lavine, Elgo and Alexander, Js.

PER CURIAM.

The defendants, Walnut Tire Shop, LLC (company), and Ramon Balbuena, appeal from the judgment of the trial court denying their motion to open a default judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff, the Commissioner of Labor. On appeal, the defendants claim that the court abused its discretion in denying that motion because they lacked actual notice of the plaintiff's action. We disagree and, accordingly, affirm the judgment of the trial court.

It is undisputed that, at all relevant times, Balbuena was the owner and president of the company.1 On November 11, 2018, the plaintiff commenced an action against the defendants on behalf of two employees to recover unpaid wages pursuant to General Statutes § 31-722 and civil penalties pursuant to General Statutes § 31-69a. On that date, a state marshal served two copies of the summons and complaint on Balbuena in both his individual capacity and as president of the company.3

When the defendants did not appear or otherwise respond to that pleading, the plaintiff filed a motion for default, which the court granted. The plaintiff then filed a motion for a default judgment that was accompanied by a sworn affidavit of debt. The court granted that motion on March 15, 2019, and rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $24, 136.35.4 The plaintiff provided notice of that judgment to the defendants in accordance with Practice Book § 17-22.

On April 24, 2019, the defendants filed a motion to open the default judgment pursuant to General Statutes § 52-212.5 In that motion, they alleged that the plaintiff had failed to serve the summons and complaint on the company, thereby depriving the defendants of ‘‘actual notice of those proceedings . . . .'' The plaintiff filed an objection, and the court thereafter denied the defendants' motion to open. From that judgment, the defendants now appeal.

It is well established that ‘‘[a] motion to open and vacate a judgment . . . is addressed to the [trial] court's discretion, and the action of the trial court will not be disturbed on appeal unless it acted unreasonably and in clear abuse of its discretion. . . . In determining whether the trial court abused its discretion, this court must make every reasonable presumption in favor of its action. . . . The manner in which [this] discretion is exercised will not be disturbed so long as the court could reasonably conclude as it did.'' (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Walton v. New Hartford, 223 Conn. 155, 169-70, 612 A.2d 1153 (1992); see also Purtill v. Cook, 197 Conn.App. 22, 26, 231 A.3d 245 (2020) (‘‘[o]ur review of a ruling on a motion to open a default judgment is governed by the abuse of discretion standard'').

On appeal, the defendants contend that the court abused its discretion in denying their motion to open because they lacked actual notice of the plaintiff's action. For two distinct reasons, the defendants' claim is unavailing. First, as a procedural matter, they have failed to comply with the mandate of § 52-212 (c) and Practice Book § 17-43, which require motions to open default judgments pursuant to § 52-212 to ‘‘be verified by the oath of the complainant or [its] attorney . . . .'' The motion to open in the present case was not verified under oath by either the defendants or their attorney. On that basis...

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