Mendillo v. Board of Educ. of Town of East Haddam

Decision Date25 August 1998
Docket NumberNo. 15757,15757
Citation717 A.2d 1177,246 Conn. 456
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Parties, 129 Ed. Law Rep. 689 Joanne MENDILLO et al. v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE TOWN OF EAST HADDAM et al.

Edward Maum Sheehy, Bridgeport, with whom was Suzannah K. Nigro, Newington, for appellees (defendants).

William F. Gallagher and Kurt D. Koehler, New Haven, filed a brief for the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.

Jack G. Steigelfest, Hartford, filed a brief for the Connecticut Defense Lawyers Association as amicus curiae.

Before CALLAHAN, C.J., and BORDEN, BERDON, NORCOTT, KATZ, PALMER and McDONALD, JJ. 1

BORDEN, Associate Justice.

The principal issues in this appeal are whether: (1) the named plaintiff, a high school principal who claims to have been wrongfully "constructively discharged" by the defendant board of education, was required to exhaust her administrative remedies under General Statutes (Rev. to 1991) § 10-151(d), 2 which is part of the Teacher Tenure Act (act), before bringing this plenary action for damages; and (2) we should recognize a derivative cause of action for loss of parental consortium by a minor child. The named plaintiff, Joanne Mendillo, her husband, John Mendillo, and her minor children, Sean and Sara Mendillo 3 appeal 4 from the judgment of the trial court dismissing for lack of subject matter jurisdiction the plaintiff's various substantive claims against the defendants, the East Haddam board of education (board of education) and Daniel J. Thompson, the superintendent of schools for the East Haddam school district, and striking the derivative claims of the minor plaintiffs for loss of parental consortium. The plaintiffs claim that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's substantive claims, and that we should recognize a derivative cause of action for loss of parental consortium by a minor child. We conclude that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's substantive claims. We decline, however, to recognize a derivative cause of action for loss of parental consortium by a minor child. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in part and affirm it in part.

In the original twelve count complaint, 5 the plaintiff alleged four substantive counts against the defendants: (1) wrongful constructive discharge; (2) defamation; (3) invasion of privacy by false light; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff's husband alleged four corresponding derivative claims for loss of spousal consortium, and the minor plaintiffs alleged four corresponding derivative claims for loss of parental consortium. The trial court, Gaffney, J., granted the defendants' motion to strike the minor plaintiffs' four counts for loss of parental consortium.

Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a substitute complaint reasserting the eight counts still in contention, namely, the four substantive counts by the plaintiff alleging wrongful constructive discharge, defamation, invasion of privacy by false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the four derivative counts by her husband alleging loss of spousal consortium as to each count alleged by the plaintiff. The defendants answered the complaint, denying its essential allegations, and filed the following special defenses: (1) the plaintiff, by a letter dated October 31, 1991, had resigned as principal of the high school effective November 4, 1991; and (2) if the plaintiff had been constructively discharged, which they denied, the court lacked jurisdiction over her claim because she had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under § 10-151(d), and had failed to exhaust the grievance and arbitration procedures available to her under a certain collective bargaining agreement. The plaintiff replied that her resignation did not provide a legally cognizable defense to her complaint because she had been forced to resign by the hostile environment created by the defendants, and that she was not required to exhaust the statutory or contractual administrative remedies asserted by the defendants.

The defendants moved to dismiss the entire substitute complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, on the grounds that: (1) the plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under § 10-151(d); (2) the plaintiff had failed to exhaust the grievance and arbitration procedures of an agreement between the board of education and the East Haddam Administrators' Association, of which the plaintiff had been a member (agreement); and (3) the claims for loss of consortium were merely derivative of the plaintiff's substantive claims. In connection with this motion to dismiss, the defendants filed an affidavit of Thompson, together with a copy of the agreement and excerpts from the plaintiff's deposition. 6 In response, the plaintiffs filed their affidavits, 7 along with excerpts from the deposition of Carl Viggiani, a former member of the board of education. 8 The trial court, Stengel, J., considered the motion on the papers presented to it, without taking further evidence, and granted the motion to dismiss. As to the wrongful constructive discharge count, the court agreed with the defendants' contention that the plaintiff was required to exhaust her administrative remedies under § 10-151(d) and the grievance and arbitration procedures of the agreement. As to the counts alleging defamation, invasion of privacy by false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress, the court agreed with the defendants' contention that the plaintiff was required to exhaust the grievance and arbitration procedures because her claims arose out of circumstances covered by the agreement. Accordingly, the court dismissed the substitute complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. This appeal followed.

I WRONGFUL CONSTRUCTIVE DISCHARGE

We first address the plaintiff's contention that the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction over her wrongful constructive discharge claim because under the circumstances of this case, she was not required to exhaust the administrative procedures of § 10-151(d) or the grievance procedures of the agreement before asserting that claim. The plaintiff agrees that in the absence of an applicable exception to the exhaustion doctrine, the failure by a tenured teacher to invoke the administrative procedures of § 10-151(d) deprives the court of jurisdiction over a claim of wrongful termination. School Administrators Assn. v. Dow, 200 Conn. 376, 384-85, 511 A.2d 1012 (1986); LaCroix v. Board of Education, 199 Conn. 70, 83-84, 505 A.2d 1233 (1986). The plaintiff argues, however, that a claim of constructive discharge comes within the exception to the exhaustion doctrine for cases in which recourse to the administrative remedy would be futile or inadequate. We conclude that the plaintiff's claim of constructive discharge, as alleged in her substitute complaint, falls within that exception to the exhaustion doctrine.

We note first that in deciding the defendants' motion to dismiss, the trial court did not purport to resolve what factual discrepancies there may have been between, on the one hand, the factual assertions of Thompson, including his presentation of the agreement and the plaintiff's resignation letter of November 4, 1991, in support of the motion and, on the other hand, the factual assertions of the plaintiffs and Viggiani, in opposition to the motion. Thus, we review that decision on the basis on which it was rendered, namely, that for purposes of the motion, the allegations of the complaint were taken as true and were supplemented by the undisputed documents, namely, the agreement and the plaintiff's letter of resignation. 9 We therefore turn to the factual allegations, which we assume to be true, that underlie the plaintiff's claim of wrongful constructive discharge.

The plaintiff alleged that Thompson became the superintendent of schools for the East Haddam school district on January 2, 1991, and at all relevant times he acted as the agent of the East Haddam board of education. The plaintiff also alleged that since January, 1969, she had been a teacher, as defined in General Statutes (Rev. to 1991) § 10-151(a)(2), 10 employed by the board of education and, from August 1, 1985, to November 4, 1991, she was the principal of the Nathan Hale-Ray High School in the East Haddam school district.

The plaintiff alleged further that on various dates between January 4, 1991, and November 4, 1991, Thompson "engaged in a deliberate effort to harass and torment the plaintiff ... making her continued employment with the East Haddam school district, for all practical purposes, impossible." 11 The plaintiff also alleged that as a result of this course of conduct, she was "constructively discharged" on November 4, 1991. She also alleged that she lost expected accumulated sick pay that she would have been paid had she remained employed by the board of education until retirement, and that she was forced to seek employment as a high school principal in another school district that was a long distance from her home in East Haddam, requiring her to maintain a separate residence at great personal expense and depriving her of the companionship of her husband and children during the school week. Finally, she alleged that as a further result of the defendants' actions, she "suffered severe emotional distress, mental anguish and pain, resulting in illness" and causing her to incur medical expenses.

"The doctrine of exhaustion is grounded in a policy of fostering an orderly process of administrative adjudication and judicial review in which a reviewing court will have the benefit of the agency's findings and conclusions. Connecticut Life & Health Ins. Guaranty Assn. v. Jackson, [173 Conn. 352, 358-59, 377 A.2d 1099 (1977) ]. The...

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  • Campos v. Coleman
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • October 6, 2015
    ...by recognizing a new cause of action for loss of parental consortium. I therefore respectfully dissent. In Mendillo v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 456, 717 A.2d 1177 (1998), we declined to recognize a common-law claim for the loss of parental consortium. Id., 461, 477 . Our rationale was......
  • Campos v. Coleman
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • October 6, 2015
    ...on the brief, was John A. Kiernan, pro hac vice, for the appellees (defendants).Opinion PALMER, J. In Mendillo v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 456, 461, 495-96, 717 A.2d 1177 (1998), this court declined to recognize a derivative cause of action for loss of parental consortium by a minor ch......
  • Cefaratti v. Aranow
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • June 14, 2016
    ...innocent victim has recourse against the principal." [Emphasis omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.]); Mendillo v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 456, 482, 717 A.2d 1177 (1998) ("the fundamental policy purposes of the tort compensation system [are] compensation of innocent parties, shi......
  • Streifel v. Bulkley, AC 41239
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • January 14, 2020
    ...Court has stated, creating a new cause of action creates benefits for some at the expense of others. See Mendillo v. Board of Education , 246 Conn. 456, 487, 717 A.2d 1177 (1998), overruled on other grounds by Campos v. Coleman , 319 Conn. 36, 37–38, 123 A.3d 854 (2015). Thus, recognizing a......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • Connecticut Expands Loss Of Consortium Claims To Minor Child
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • October 13, 2015
    ...parental consortium claims. Campos overrules the previous prohibition of such claims by the court in Mendillo v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 456, 461, 495-96, 717 A.2d 1177 (1998). Under Mendillo, loss of consortium was limited to spouses and did not extend to the parent-child relationshi......

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