Duart v. Dep't of Corr.

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Citation114 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 363,303 Conn. 479,34 A.3d 343
Decision Date24 January 2012
Docket NumberNo. 18476.,18476.
PartiesBonnie DUART v. DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION.

114 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 363
303 Conn. 479
34 A.3d 343

Bonnie DUART
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION.

No. 18476.

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued April 26, 2011.Decided Jan. 24, 2012.


[34 A.3d 344]

Leon M. Rosenblatt, West Hartford, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Gregory T. D'Auria, solicitor general, with whom were Antoria D. Howard, assistant attorney general, and, on the brief, George Jepsen, attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, former attorney general, Margaret Q. Chapple, assistant attorney general, and Jane B. Emons, former assistant attorney general, for the appellee (defendant).

Kathleen Eldergill, Manchester, filed a brief for the Connecticut Employment Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.Charles Krich filed a brief for the commission on human rights and opportunities as amicus curiae.ROGERS, C.J., and PALMER, ZARELLA, McLACHLAN, EVELEIGH, VERTEFEUILLE and BEAR, Js.*McLACHLAN, J.

[303 Conn. 481] The issue before us in this certified appeal is whether a party seeking a new

[34 A.3d 345]

trial on the basis of alleged knowing and deliberate discovery misconduct must show that the result at a new trial would likely be different.1 The plaintiff, Bonnie Duart, appeals, upon our grant of her petition for certification, from the judgment of the Appellate Court affirming the trial court's denial of the plaintiff's motion for a new trial. She claims that the rule that we set forth in Varley v. Varley, 180 Conn. 1, 428 A.2d 317 (1980), to determine whether a new trial should be granted on the basis of allegations that the judgment was obtained through fraud—which requires, inter alia, that the movant demonstrate a substantial likelihood that the result of a new trial will be different—does not apply to a motion for a new trial on the basis of alleged discovery misconduct by the nonmoving party. 2 She claims, therefore, that [303 Conn. 482] the Appellate Court improperly applied the standard set forth in Varley in affirming the judgment of the trial court. We conclude that the Varley rule as reframed in this decision applies to motions for a new trial based on the discovery misconduct of the nonmoving party. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court set forth the following relevant facts and procedural history. “This case arises out of an employment dispute between the plaintiff, a lieutenant with the department of correction, and the defendant, [the department of correction]. On May 28, 2002, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint against the defendant. In count one, she alleged that the defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation. In count two, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant retaliated against her after she filed a complaint of discrimination with the commission on human rights and opportunities (commission).3

“The plaintiff alleged the following facts in support of her claims. On October 7, 1999, the plaintiff's supervisor, Duane Kelley, wrote an incident report in which he alleged that the plaintiff was dating another female correction officer, Cynthia Bruner, who was in the same chain of command as the plaintiff.4 Kelley published this incident report to the warden, Gurukaur Khalsa. Following the publication of the incident report, both Kelley and Khalsa began making false or grossly exaggerated allegations against the plaintiff. They harassed her about her hair, despite her continual compliance [303 Conn. 483] with the rules governing hair length, and, at one point, Khalsa stated to the plaintiff that if she did not know how to put her hair up properly, she should get one of her many women friends to help her. The plaintiff understood this

[34 A.3d 346]

statement to be in reference to her sexual orientation. In addition, the plaintiff was accused falsely of being disrespectful to Kelley and was transferred to the third shift despite a medical condition that prevented her from working that particular shift.

“On April 24, 2000, the plaintiff filed her first complaint of discrimination with the commission and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After she filed the complaint, the discrimination and harassment by Kelley and Khalsa became even more severe, as evidenced by the following events: (1) the plaintiff was suspended for five days under the pretext of not complying with the hair regulations and for supposed disrespectful behavior to Kelley; (2) the plaintiff received her first unsatisfactory evaluation and her pay raise was taken away; (3) the plaintiff was accused falsely of failing to follow procedures regarding sick days, scheduling training and storing facility keys; (4) the plaintiff was denied vacation time; (5) the plaintiff was demoted from her position of lieutenant; and (6) the plaintiff was transferred by another supervisor, Wayne Valade, to a different correctional facility, which resulted in a decrease in pay, authority and prestige. The plaintiff also alleged that both Valade and Kelley had a practice of harassing female officers.” Duart v. Dept. of Correction, 116 Conn.App. 758, 760–62, 977 A.2d 670 (2009).5

A jury trial commenced on July 14, 2004. On July 27, 2004, the jury issued a verdict denying the plaintiff's claims of discrimination on the basis of gender, race [303 Conn. 484] and sexual orientation. On August 6, 2004, the plaintiff filed a motion in arrest of judgment for extrinsic causes, to set aside the verdict and for a new trial. In support of her motion, the plaintiff relied on the defendant's failure to disclose an anonymous note accusing the plaintiff of being in a relationship with Bruner, developments in the defendant's investigation of a complaint by Lieutenant Catherine Osten that Kelley and Valade had retaliated against her, and a 2002 discrimination complaint filed by Lieutenant Lisa Jackson against Osten and Kelley.6 Assuming, without deciding, that the defendant had engaged in discovery misconduct, the trial court concluded that the evidence at issue was “merely cumulative” of evidence presented at trial and, as such, “would not have produced a different result.” The court applied the “result altering” standard as set forth in Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers Union, Local No. 59 v. Superline Transportation Co., 953 F.2d 17, 21 (1st Cir.1992) ( Teamsters ), which requires the movant to show that it “possesses a potentially meritorious claim or defense which, if proven, will bring success in its wake,” and denied the plaintiff's motion for a new trial.

The plaintiff appealed from the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court, claiming that the defendant's discovery misconduct had “so perverted the process” that it had deprived her of the opportunity to fully and fairly discover evidence, and that consequently she was entitled to a new trial. She argued that the trial court improperly applied the “result altering” standard set forth in Teamsters,

[34 A.3d 347]

and should have applied the “substantial interference” test set forth in [303 Conn. 485] Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 862 F.2d 910, 926 (1st Cir.1988), which requires the movant to show that “the misconduct substantially interfered with its ability fully and fairly to prepare for, and proceed at, trial.”

The Appellate Court upheld the trial court's decision by applying the “result altering” standard as articulated in Varley for a motion for a new trial grounded upon evidence of fraud, rather than by applying First Circuit case law. The Appellate Court held that, although the trial court's memorandum of decision did not expressly set out the standard established in Varley, it had “effectively applied the correct standard” in determining that, even if the defendant had disclosed the evidence at issue, the evidence was unlikely to produce a different result. Duart v. Dept. of Correction, supra, 116 Conn.App. at 772–73, 977 A.2d 670. This certified appeal followed.

The plaintiff argues that the Varley rule is inapposite because discovery misconduct is distinct from misconduct at trial, and she should not be required to prove that the result of a new trial will be different. Instead, she suggests that the court should adopt the standard articulated by the First Circuit in Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., supra, 862 F.2d at 926, or by this court in Ramin v. Ramin, 281 Conn. 324, 915 A.2d 790 (2007). In response, the defendant contends that the Appellate Court properly concluded that the “result altering” standard in Varley applies to both claims of fraud and discovery misconduct. We agree with the defendant.

Practice Book § 16–35 authorizes motions for a new trial.7 Historically, this court has recognized the difficulty of articulating a “precise rule” applicable to all [303 Conn. 486] motions for new trials for verdicts against the evidence. Laflin v. Pomeroy, 11 Conn. 440, 445 (1836). In Laflin, we stated that while the court must not interfere with the “appropriate province of the jury,” it was clear that it may exercise its authority to grant a new trial when necessary to serve the “great end of all trials, a fair and impartial administration of justice.” Id. We further concluded that the “substantial ends of justice” would not require a new trial when it did not clearly appear that “the result would or ought to be different....” Id.; see also Wooster v. Glover, 37 Conn. 315, 316 (1870) (denying petition for new trial when petitioner failed to show that injustice had been done, even though his default of appearance was not negligent, because “the result of a new trial would not probably be different” [internal quotation marks omitted] ).

Over time and in a variety of contexts, this court consistently has required parties to demonstrate the likelihood of a different result to show that justice requires a new trial. For example, we have stated that the discovery of new evidence warrants a new trial if “upon all the evidence an injustice had been done,” but that a new trial will not...

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  • Reville v. Reville
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 8, 2014
    ...a new trial will be different, rather than a “substantial likelihood,” as our previous case law had held. See Duart v. Dept. of Correction, 303 Conn. 479, 491, 34 A.3d 343 (2012). A reasonable probability means “a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome,” or that the n......
  • Reville v. Reville
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 8, 2014
    ...a new trial will be different, rather than a "substantial likelihood," as our previous case law had held. See Duart v. Dept. of Correction, 303 Conn. 479, 491, 34 A.3d 343 (2012). A reasonable probability means "a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome," or that the n......
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • December 18, 2018
    ...in a dissolution action are "[u]nlike civil litigants who stand at arm's length from one another ...." Duart v. Dept. of Correction , 303 Conn. 479, 501, 34 A.3d 343 (2012). For this reason, and because parties in a dissolution action need information about each other's income and assets to......
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • September 30, 2014
    ...new and fair hearing.’ ” (Footnote omitted.) Duart v. Dept. of Correction, 116 Conn.App. 758, 769, 977 A.2d 670 (2009), aff'd, 303 Conn. 479, 34 A.3d 343 (2012). Our Supreme Court later modified the fourth requirement and “rephras[ed] the fourth prong to require a movant to demonstrate a re......
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