Jepsen v. Camassar

Decision Date25 February 2020
Docket Number42000
Citation228 A.3d 376,196 Conn.App. 97
Parties Anders B. JEPSEN et al. v. Beth M. CAMASSAR et al.
CourtConnecticut Court of Appeals

Beth A. Steele, for the appellants (named plaintiff et al.).

Mark S. Zamarka, with whom, on the brief, was Edward B. O'Connell, for the appellees (named defendant et al.).

Christine S. Synodi, for the appellees (defendant Savas S. Synodi et al.).

Alvord, Prescott and Beach, Js.


The plaintiffs Anders B. Jepsen and Beth Jepsen1 appeal from the denial of their postjudgment motions for equitable relief, for attorney's fees and costs, and to open the judgment rendered by the trial court following a remand by this court. See Jepsen v. Camassar , 181 Conn. App. 492, 187 A.3d 486 ( Jepsen I ), cert. denied, 329 Conn. 909, 186 A.3d 12 (2018). On appeal, the plaintiffs claim that (1) the trial court failed to provide them with relief that was encompassed within the mandate of Jepsen I when it denied their claims to equitable relief and attorney's fees and costs, (2) even assuming that the mandate did not encompass the relief sought by the plaintiffs, the trial court improperly declined to open the judgment to provide the plaintiffs with their desired relief, and (3) the trial court violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights by failing to provide them with their desired relief on remand. We agree in part with the plaintiffs' claim to attorney's fees and costs, reverse the judgment of the trial court limited to that issue and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

The following relevant facts are set forth in this court's decision in Jepsen I . The plaintiffs and the defendants,2 at all relevant times, owned real property in a subdivision in New London (subdivision). Id., at 495, 187 A.3d 486. In addition to residential parcels, the subdivision is comprised of a 250 foot strip of beachfront property known as Billard Beach (beach). Id., at 496, 187 A.3d 486. "Each owner of real property in the subdivision is the holder of two deeds relevant to this dispute: a warranty deed that conveyed ownership rights in fee simple to his or her individual parcel of subdivision property (warranty deed) and a quitclaim deed that conveyed an ‘undivided one-forty-eighth (1/48th) interest’ in the beach (beach deed)." Id. The beach deed contains restrictive covenants on the use of the beach and expressly provides a mechanism for the modification of the restrictive covenants. Id., at 496–98, 187 A.3d 486. The beach deed is subject to an express condition subsequent that the beach deed would revert back to the grantor, its successors or assigns "if the same is aliened separately and apart from the land" in the warranty deed.

In 2011, a dispute arose among some of the property owners regarding guest access to the beach. In response to this dispute, a modification to the restrictive covenants of the beach deed (2011 modification) was filed on the New London land records. See Jepsen I , supra, 181 Conn. App. at 502, 187 A.3d 486. The 2011 modification prompted the original plaintiffs to commence a declaratory judgment action seeking to have the 2011 modification declared null and void. Id. After the filing of the action, "the parties engaged in prolonged discussions, including mediation, seeking to resolve the issues raised in the legal action, while still trying to respond to the concerns of the [Billard Beach] [A]ssociation [association] members regarding uncontrolled [guest] use of the beach .... In the course of these negotiations, the proponents of the modification, working with the [e]xecutive [c]ommittee of the [a]ssociation, developed and proposed the Amended and Restated Covenants and Restrictions Regarding Billard Beach, New London, Connecticut (2014 modification). The 2014 modification contained an extensive revision of the restrictive covenants governing the use of the beach." (Footnote omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., at 502–503, 187 A.3d 486. The 2014 modification was filed on the New London land records, causing the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to seek a declaratory judgment that the 2014 modification is null and void. Id., at 509, 187 A.3d 486. In their third amended complaint (complaint), the plaintiffs pleaded six counts in total: counts of declaratory judgment, quiet title, and slander of title, as to both the 2011 and 2014 modifications.

A trial was held in December, 2015. Id. In a memorandum of decision dated May 20, 2016, the trial court, Bates , J. , "ruled in favor of the defendants on the slander of title counts of the ... complaint," "rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on the first count of their complaint [seeking declaratory judgment], declaring that [t]he 2011 modification by agreement of the parties is deemed null and void,’ " and "rendered judgment in favor of the defendants on the fourth count of the ... complaint, stating that [t]he 2014 modification is declared valid and in full force and effect.’ " Id., at 510–12, 187 A.3d 486. Judge Bates noted that " [c]laims for attorney's fees and costs, if any, have been reserved by agreement of the parties for posttrial motions.’ The plaintiffs thereafter filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to General Statutes § 52-245 and Practice Book § 13-25, predicated on the defendants' special defense that the plaintiffs possessed knowledge of the modifications to the beach deed but refused to participate .... The [trial] court declined that request, concluding that such an award was not warranted." (Footnotes omitted.) Id., at 534, 187 A.3d 486. The plaintiffs appealed to this court, claiming that "the [trial] court improperly (1) concluded that the [2014 modification] was properly enacted, (2) concluded that they had not met their burden in establishing slander of title, and (3) declined to render an award of attorney's fees in their favor." Id., at 495, 187 A.3d 486.

In Jepsen I , this court reversed the trial court's judgment in favor of the defendants on the declaratory judgment count with respect to the 2014 modification, concluding that the 2014 modification was not "approved by owners of a majority of properties in the subdivision" and, thus, was not " ‘valid and in full force and effect.’ " Id., at 529, 187 A.3d 486. We affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the defendants on the plaintiffs' slander of title counts and their claim to attorney's fees and costs. Id., at 533, 535, 187 A.3d 486. The following rescript was issued in Jepsen I : "The judgment is reversed only as to the fourth count of the plaintiffs' complaint and the case is remanded with direction to render judgment declaring the 2014 modification invalid. The judgment is affirmed in all other respects." Id., at 535, 187 A.3d 486.

On remand, on May 7, 2018, the trial court, Calmar , J. , rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on the fourth count of their complaint, declaring the 2014 modification invalid. The plaintiffs thereafter filed a petition for certification to appeal to our Supreme Court, which was denied. See Jepsen v. Camassar , 329 Conn. 909, 186 A.3d 12 (2018).

On July 9, 2018, the plaintiffs filed two postjudgment motions: (1) a motion captioned "claim for equitable relief pursuant to [ General Statutes §] 47-31, [Practice Book §§] 10-27 and 11-21 and for alternative relief pursuant to [Practice Book] § 10-25" (postjudgment motion for equitable relief); and (2) a motion captioned "motion for fees and costs pursuant to ... § 52-245 and [Practice Book] § 13-25 and for alternative relief pursuant to ... [§] 47-31 and [Practice Book] § 10-25" (postjudgment motion for fees and costs).3

On July 20, 2018, the defendants represented by Synodi & Videll, LLC, and the defendants represented by Waller, Smith & Palmer, P.C.,4 separately filed objections to the plaintiffs' postjudgment motions. Therein, those defendants argued that the plaintiffs' postjudgment motions were improper because a judgment had been rendered in the case and no motion to open that judgment had been filed. The defendants further argued that the plaintiffs' claims in the postjudgment motions exceeded the scope of this court's mandate in Jepsen I . The Synodi defendants claimed that the plaintiffs had "filed frivolous motions which [were] an abuse of process" and sought to have the plaintiffs foreclosed from filing other similar motions. The WSP defendants claimed that the plaintiffs' postjudgment motions had "no basis in law or fact" and were "blatant and baseless attempts to relitigate issues already ruled [on]," and requested an award of costs and attorney's fees for defending against the plaintiffs' "vexatious claims." On July 25, 2018, the trial court, S. Murphy , J. , summarily denied the plaintiffs' postjudgment motions and summarily sustained the defendants' objections thereto.

On July 23, 2018, in response to arguments raised in the defendants' objections and while awaiting the trial court's ruling on their postjudgment motions, the plaintiffs filed a motion to open the judgment (motion to open). The plaintiffs sought to have the court open Judge Calmar's May 7, 2018 judgment and award attorney's fees and costs, and equitable relief. The Synodi defendants and the WSP defendants objected, and Judge Murphy summarily denied the plaintiffs' motion to open. The plaintiffs thereafter filed this appeal of the trial court's denial of their postjudgment motions and their motion to open.5 Additional facts will be set forth as necessary.


The plaintiffs claim that the trial court improperly denied their (1) postjudgment motion for equitable relief and (2) postjudgment motion for fees and costs. We will consider each claim in turn.


The plaintiffs claim that this court's order of remand in Jepsen I required the trial court to address their claims for quiet title and injunctive relief. The defendants argue that the relief sought by the plaintiffs was beyond...

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2 cases
  • Anthis v. Windom
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • May 26, 2020
    ...this court must make every reasonable presumption in favor of its action." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Jepsen v. Camassar , 196 Conn. App. 97, 119–20, 228 A.3d 376 (2020).In his motion for remittitur, the defendant moved for a reduction of the jury's verdict "in order to account for......
  • Jepsen v. Camassar
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • June 30, 2020
    ...London, and Christine S. Synodi, in opposition.The plaintiffs' petition for certification to appeal from the Appellate Court, 196 Conn. App. 97, 228 A.3d 376 (2020), is ...

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