Iino v. Spalter, AC 40574

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBRIGHT, J.
Citation192 Conn.App. 421,218 A.3d 152
Parties Elizabeth Spalter IINO v. Diane Rogers SPALTER, Executrix (Estate of Harold Spalter)
Docket NumberAC 40574
Decision Date10 September 2019

192 Conn.App. 421
218 A.3d 152

Elizabeth Spalter IINO
v.
Diane Rogers SPALTER, Executrix (Estate of Harold Spalter)

AC 40574

Appellate Court of Connecticut.

Argued April 16, 2019
Officially released September 10, 2019


218 A.3d 156

Alexander Copp, Danbury, with whom were David B. Zabel, Bridgeport, and, on the brief, Barbara M. Schellenberg, Orange, for the appellant (defendant).

Hugh D. Hughes, New Haven, for the appellee (plaintiff).

Elgo, Bright and Beach, Js.

BRIGHT, J.

218 A.3d 157
192 Conn.App. 423

The defendant, Dianne Rogers Spalter, executrix of the estate of Harold Spalter, appeals from the judgment of the trial court, rendered after a jury trial, in favor of the plaintiff, Elizabeth Spalter Iino, the biological daughter of Harold Spalter, the decedent (decedent). On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court improperly (1) denied her motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, (2) admitted certain evidence, (3) permitted the jury to find her liable for punitive damages without evidence as to the plaintiff's litigation expenses and reserved to itself the issue of the amount of punitive damages to be awarded, and (4) denied her motion to set aside the verdict, which alleged that there was insufficient evidence that the plaintiff suffers from psychological trauma caused by childhood sexual abuse. We agree with the defendant's

192 Conn.App. 424

third claim. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the trial court.

The following procedural history provides a sufficient foundation for our analysis. Following the death of the decedent, the plaintiff brought a two count complaint against the defendant executrix of the decedent's New York estate, alleging that the decedent repeatedly had sexually abused her in Connecticut from the time she was six years old until she reached the age of seventeen. She claimed extreme trauma, mental anguish and psychological injuries, and that such injuries were permanent. The first count of her complaint alleged intentional sexual abuse, and the second count alleged reckless sexual abuse. The plaintiff requested compensatory damages and punitive damages. Following a trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff on the first count of her complaint, and it returned a verdict awarding her $15 million in compensatory damages.1 The jury also found that the plaintiff was entitled to an award of punitive damages, but it was not asked to determine the amount of the punitive damages to be awarded. The court rendered judgment in accordance with the jury's verdict, reserving to itself a finding as to the amount of punitive damages, to be determined later. The relevant facts and additional procedural history will be set forth as necessary throughout this opinion.

I

The defendant claims that the trial court improperly denied her motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. She argues that the court's denial of her motion to dismiss was improper because "asserting jurisdiction over a New York executrix with absolutely no ties to Connecticut ... violate[s] due process." She contends that, despite its agreement that the defendant

192 Conn.App. 425

"had no appreciable contacts in Connecticut ... the trial court denied the motion to dismiss on the ground that [the decedent's] contacts with Connecticut were sufficient to support jurisdiction.... The trial court erred by failing to base its decision on [the] defendant's complete lack of contacts with this state." We disagree.

The standard of review for a court's decision on a motion to dismiss is well settled. "A motion to dismiss tests, inter alia, whether, on the face of the record, the court is without jurisdiction.... [O]ur review of the court's ultimate legal conclusion and resulting [determination] of the motion to dismiss [is] de novo." (Internal quotation marks omitted.)

218 A.3d 158

Cogswell v. American Transit Ins. Co ., 282 Conn. 505, 516, 923 A.2d 638 (2007).

Although, "[a]s a general matter, the burden is placed on the defendant to disprove personal jurisdiction ... [i]f the defendant challenging the court's personal jurisdiction is a foreign corporation or a nonresident individual, it is the plaintiff's burden to prove the court's jurisdiction." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., at 515, 923 A.2d 638. "When a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction in a motion to dismiss, the court must undertake a two part inquiry to determine the propriety of its exercising such jurisdiction over the defendant. The trial court must first decide whether the applicable state's long-arm statute authorizes the assertion of jurisdiction over the [defendant]. If the statutory requirements [are] met, its second obligation [is] then to decide whether the exercise of jurisdiction over the [defendant] would violate constitutional principles of due process." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., at 514–15, 923 A.2d 638. Thus, on the basis of the facts in the record, this court must determine whether our long arm statute, General Statutes § 52-59b,2 properly applies to

192 Conn.App. 426

the defendant and, if that statutory threshold is met, whether the defendant, acting as executrix of the estate of the decedent, has the requisite minimum contacts with this state sufficient to satisfy constitutional due process concerns. See id.

In the present case, the defendant does not contest that the statutory threshold has been met. Indeed, she never cites § 52-59b in her primary appellate brief or in her reply brief. Rather, the defendant argues that her right to due process of law has been violated by the court's assertion of jurisdiction over her because she, personally, has no minimum contacts with our state. Specifically, she argues that "[a]lthough a long arm statute may change [the common-law rule regarding jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant] as a matter of state law, it does not alter the minimum contacts requirement under the United States constitution, which require[s] analysis into [the] [d ]efendant's contacts with the forum state." (Emphasis in original.) Accordingly, we consider whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant is proper under the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution; see

192 Conn.App. 427

U.S. Const., amend. XIV, § 1 ; which limits the jurisdiction of state courts called on to render judgments against nonresident defendants. See Samelko v. Kingstone Ins. Co. , 329 Conn. 249, 265, 184 A.3d 741 (2018), citing

218 A.3d 159

Kulko v. Superior Court , 436 U.S. 84, 91, 98 S. Ct. 1690, 56 L. Ed. 2d 132 (1978). We agree with the multitude of cases and § 358 of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws, which have considered this issue and have concluded that, if the relevant long arm statute would have permitted the court to exercise jurisdiction over the decedent had he been living, the due process clause of the federal constitution is not offended by that statute also permitting the exercise of jurisdiction over the decedent's executrix, who stands in the shoes of the decedent for purposes of the action. See 2 Restatement (Second), Conflict of Laws § 358, p. 421 (1971) ("[a]n action may be maintained against a foreign executor or administrator upon a claim against the decedent when the local law of the forum authorizes suit in the state against the executor or administrator and (a) suit could have been maintained within the state against the decedent during his lifetime because of the existence of a basis of jurisdiction other than mere physical presence").

"In the past, common law directed that an executor could only be sued in the state in which he was appointed. See Martel [v. Stafford , 992 F.2d 1244, 1246 (1st Cir. 1993) ] (discussing Massachusetts common law rule); Gandolfo v. Alford , 31 Conn. Supp. 417, 333 A.2d 65, 66 (1975) (stating ‘that the general common-law rule is an executor or administrator of an estate can sue and be sued only in a jurisdiction in which he has been so appointed’). However, within the last several decades, many state legislatures have abrogated that common law notion by enacting long arm statutes which expressly provide for jurisdiction over the executor if jurisdiction could have been maintained over the decedent. See

192 Conn.App. 428

Eubank Heights Apartments, Ltd . v. Lebow , 615 F.2d 571, 574 (1st Cir. 1980) (concluding that jurisdiction over the decedent's estate was appropriate if the Texas long arm statute would have provided jurisdiction over the decedent had he not died); Nile v. Nile , 432 Mass. 390, 734 N.E. 2d 1153, 1159 (2000) (holding that the Massachusetts long-arm statute provides for jurisdiction over a non-resident personal representative when the decedent had sufficient contacts with...

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14 practice notes
  • Scholz v. Epstein, AC 42419
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • June 16, 2020
    ...alia, whether, on the face of the record, the court is without jurisdiction." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Iino v. Spalter , 192 Conn. App. 421, 425, 218 A.3d 152 (2019). "When a ... court decides a jurisdictional question raised by a pretrial 198 Conn.App. 205 motion to dismiss, it ......
  • Borg v. Cloutier, AC 41693
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 15, 2020
    ...by the defendant. Regarding their second claim, the plaintiffs argue that, pursuant to this court's holding in Iino v. Spalter , 192 Conn. App. 421, 218 A.3d 152 (2019), the court should have submitted to the jury the issue of the amount of punitive damages to be awarded. We disagree.The fo......
  • Watson Real Estate, LLC v. Woodland Ridge, LLC, AC 43006
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • October 5, 2021
    ...that determination "will be a separately appealable final judgment as to the reasonableness of the fees awarded." Iino v. Spalter , 192 Conn. App. 421, 457, 218 A.3d 152 (2019) ; see also Paraneau v. DeVita , supra, at 524 n.11, 544 A.2d 634.In the present case, the defendant filed a counte......
  • Crosskey Architects, LLC v. Poko Partners, LLC, AC 40693
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 10, 2019
    ...of whether to grant interest under § 37-3a is primarily an equitable determination and a matter lying within the discretion of the trial 218 A.3d 152 court" [internal quotation marks omitted] ). In the present case, the court did not abuse its discretion in awarding prejudgment interest und......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Scholz v. Epstein, AC 42419
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • June 16, 2020
    ...alia, whether, on the face of the record, the court is without jurisdiction." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Iino v. Spalter , 192 Conn. App. 421, 425, 218 A.3d 152 (2019). "When a ... court decides a jurisdictional question raised by a pretrial 198 Conn.App. 205 motion to dismiss, it ......
  • Borg v. Cloutier, AC 41693
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 15, 2020
    ...by the defendant. Regarding their second claim, the plaintiffs argue that, pursuant to this court's holding in Iino v. Spalter , 192 Conn. App. 421, 218 A.3d 152 (2019), the court should have submitted to the jury the issue of the amount of punitive damages to be awarded. We disagree.The fo......
  • Watson Real Estate, LLC v. Woodland Ridge, LLC, AC 43006
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • October 5, 2021
    ...that determination "will be a separately appealable final judgment as to the reasonableness of the fees awarded." Iino v. Spalter , 192 Conn. App. 421, 457, 218 A.3d 152 (2019) ; see also Paraneau v. DeVita , supra, at 524 n.11, 544 A.2d 634.In the present case, the defendant filed a counte......
  • Crosskey Architects, LLC v. Poko Partners, LLC, AC 40693
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 10, 2019
    ...of whether to grant interest under § 37-3a is primarily an equitable determination and a matter lying within the discretion of the trial 218 A.3d 152 court" [internal quotation marks omitted] ). In the present case, the court did not abuse its discretion in awarding prejudgment interest und......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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