Rivera v. Double A Transportation, Inc., (SC 15972)

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtKATZ, J.
Citation248 Conn. 21,727 A.2d 204
Decision Date16 March 1999
Docket Number(SC 15972)
PartiesALYSSA RIVERA v. DOUBLE A TRANSPORTATION, INC., ET AL.

248 Conn. 21
727 A.2d 204

ALYSSA RIVERA
v.
DOUBLE A TRANSPORTATION, INC., ET AL

(SC 15972)

Supreme Court of Connecticut.

Argued December 8, 1998.

Officially released March 16, 1999.


Callahan, C. J., and Borden, Berdon, Norcott and Katz, JS.

248 Conn. 22
Louis D. Ferreri, for the appellant (plaintiff)

Douglas A. Casale, for the appellees (defendants).

Opinion

KATZ, J.

The principal issues in this appeal are whether, in the absence of an allegation of physical injury: (1) General Statutes § 52-5841 applies to a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (2) the trial court properly determined that the plaintiffs claim for false imprisonment is controlled by § 52-584. The trial court concluded that the two year statute of limitations provided by § 52-584 barred both the claims of the plaintiff. We affirm the judgment.

The record discloses the following undisputed facts. On October 14, 1994, the plaintiff, Alyssa Rivera,2 who was four years of age and developmentally delayed, was a passenger on a school bus owned and operated by the named defendant, Double A Transportation, Inc. (Double A). Double A transported the plaintiff to the Israel Putnam School, a facility operated by and under the direction of the defendant city of Meriden and the defendant board of education of the city of Meriden,3

248 Conn. 23
where she was enrolled in a special preschool program. The plaintiff remained on the bus after the other children had disembarked at the school. Neither the bus driver nor the school personnel searched the bus for remaining passengers. The driver then returned the bus to Double A's parking lot in Wallingford, where he left it, once again neglecting to verify that the vehicle was empty of passengers. The plaintiff, who was unable to leave, remained on the bus for approximately three hours until Double A's personnel discovered her

On August 26, and August 27, 1997, on the basis of those events, the plaintiff brought a four count complaint alleging one count of negligent infliction of emotional distress and one count of false imprisonment against both Double A and the municipal defendants. As a result of the defendants' conduct, the plaintiff allegedly suffered great emotional distress, posttraumatic stress disorder, and aggravation of her developmental delays. The defendants moved for summary judgment, claiming that because the plaintiff had not commenced the action within the two year limitation period provided in § 52-584, the action was time barred. The plaintiff argued in response that because she had not sustained "bodily injuries," the three year limitation period of General Statutes § 52-5774 should control. The trial court granted the defendants' motions as they related to the two counts alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress, but denied the motions as they pertained to the two counts alleging false imprisonment. Following the defendants' motion for reconsideration and reargument, the trial court granted the motions for summary judgment as to the false imprisonment counts, thereby rendering judgment on the entire complaint for the defendants.

248 Conn. 24
The plaintiff appealed the judgment of the trial court to the Appellate Court, and pursuant to Practice Book § 65-1, and General Statutes § 51-199 (c), this court transferred the appeal to itself

I

The first issue requires an interpretation of the term "injury to the person" in § 52-584 and a concomitant determination of whether, in the absence of a claim for "physical injury," the trial court properly applied § 52-584 in granting the defendants' motions for summary judgment as to the two counts alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress.

"The standards governing our review of a trial court's decision to grant a motion for summary judgment are well established. Practice Book § 384 [now § 17-49] provides that summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, affidavits and any other proof submitted show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.... Miller v. United Technologies Corp., 233 Conn. 732, 744-45, 660 A.2d 810 (1995). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the trial court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.... Id., 745. The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue [of] material facts which, under applicable principles of substantive law, entitle him to a judgment as a matter of law; D.H.R. Construction Co. v. Donnelly, 180 Conn. 430, 434, 429 A.2d 908 (1980); and the party opposing such a motion must provide an evidentiary foundation to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Practice Book § 381 [now § 17-46].... Suarez v. Dickmont Plastics Corp., 229 Conn. 99, 105, 639 A.2d 507 (1994)." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Hertz

248 Conn. 25
Corp. v. Federal Ins. Co., 245 Conn. 374, 380-81, 374 A.2d 820 (1998).

In the present case, no affidavit or other proof was offered by the defendants in support of their motions. In deciding whether the trial court properly concluded that § 52-584 controls this case, we are confined solely to the complaint and to the statute under consideration. Because it is undisputed that the claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress allege only emotional injuries, our scope of inquiry in deciding whether physical injury is required in order for § 52-584 to apply is further limited.

Our analysis of this issue is guided by well established principles of statutory construction. "Statutory construction is a question of law and therefore our review is plenary." Davis v. Norwich, 232 Conn. 311, 317, 654 A.2d 1221 (1995). "[O]ur fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature.... In seeking to discern that intent, we look to the words of the statute itself, to the legislative history and circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to its relationship to existing legislation and common law principles governing the same general subject matter.... State v. Burns, 236 Conn. 18, 22-23, 670 A.2d 851 (1996); State v. Spears, 234 Conn. 78, 86-87, 662 A.2d 80 (1995)." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut National Bank v. Giacomi, 242 Conn. 17, 32, 699 A.2d 101 (1997).

We examine first the words of the statute itself. "No action to recover damages for injury to the person, or to real or personal property, caused by negligence, or by reckless or wanton misconduct ... shall be brought but within two years from the date when the injury is first sustained or discovered...." General Statutes § 52-584. The word "injury" is not defined in

248 Conn. 26
chapter 926 of the General Statutes, entitled "Statute of Limitations." Section 52-584 uses the phrase "injury to a person" without limitation, and there is nothing in the statute to suggest the proposed limitation.

The legislative history is unfortunately somewhat deficient as it relates to what the legislature intended "injury to the person" to include. At the time of passage, the legislature was focused on the need for a time limit and the dangers inherent in allowing parties to bring stale claims. Conn. Joint Standing Committee Hearings, General Law, Pt. 1, 1957 Sess., p. 152. There are but two brief references to the inclusive nature of the term "injury": "Of course this statute is not limited to automobile accident cases. It is concerned with any negligence action ... and also malpractice actions"; 13 H.R. Proc., Pt. 5, 1969 Sess., p. 2404, remarks of Representative Lawrence J. Merly; and "we know more and more, now, that many, many claims are not readily apparent. Now, there's an exception in the statute, when the injury was apparent or should have been known, now this is [a] very hard burden to get over. And there are all sorts of back injuries, nerve injuries some [e]motional injuries." 13 S. Proc., Pt. 5, 1969 Sess., p. 2060, remarks of Senator T. Clark Hull. Therefore, to the extent that the legislative history is informative as to the issue on appeal, it leaves the plaintiff's position highly vulnerable.

Finally, the plaintiff can point to no case, nor can we find one, to support her limited interpretation. On the contrary, although an injury signifies a wrong done to a person, or in other words, a violation of that person's right, we have concluded that the word is not used in such a technical sense in the statute. Rather, it is used more generally. In the context of applying § 52-584 to decide whether a particular action was commenced in a timely fashion, we have stated that "an injury occurs when a party suffers some form of actionable harm."

248 Conn. 27
Burns v. Hartford Hospital, 192 Conn. 451, 460, 472 A.2d 1257 (1984); see Champagne v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 212 Conn. 509, 521, 562 A.2d 1100 (1989); Lambert v. Stovell, 205 Conn. 1, 6, 529 A.2d 710 (1987); Catz v. Rubenstein, 201 Conn. 39, 43, 513 A.2d 98 (1986); see Durrett v. Leading Edge Products, Inc., 965 F. Sup. 280, 284-85 (D. Conn. 1997) (in negligence actions brought under Connecticut law, "injury" means actionable harm for statute of limitations purposes).

Contrary to the plaintiffs proposed interpretation, this court has never hypothesized that mental injury alone could not be the subject of "injury to the person," provided that it is causally connected to a defendant's negligence. Indeed, recent developments in tort law reflect a broadening of the definition of a compensable injury to include emotional distress even in the absence of physical impact or proof of an ensuing bodily injury. In Montinieri v. Southern New England Telephone Co., 175 Conn. 337, 344, 398 A.2d 1180 (1978), this court stated that "there is no logical reason for making a distinction, for purposes of determining liability, between those cases...

To continue reading

Request your trial
107 practice notes
  • Bolmer v. Oliveira, No. 06-cv-235 (JBA).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • August 5, 2008
    ...on the other hand, "`is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another,'" Rivera v. Double A Transp., Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 727 A.2d 204, 209 (1999) (quoting Felix v. Hall-Brooke Sanitarium, 140 Conn. 496, 101 A.2d 500, 502 (1953)), which is done "for the Page 325 of ......
  • Doe v. City of Waterbury, Civil Action No. 3:01cv2298 (SRU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • September 28, 2006
    ..."False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another." Rivera v. Double A Transp., Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 31, 727 A.2d 204 (1999). A person is liable for false imprisonment, if he acts "for the purpose of imposing a confinement, or with knowledge that ......
  • Ward v. Housatonic Area Regional Transit Dist., No. CIV. A. 398CV2467JCH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • August 3, 2001
    ..."False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another." Rivera v. Double A Transportation, Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 31, 727 A.2d 204 (1999) (quoting Felix v. Hall-Brooke Sanitarium, 140 Conn. 496, 499, 101 A.2d 500 (1953)). False imprisonment falls into t......
  • Lewis v. State of Connecticut Dept. of Corrections, No. 3:02 CV 2304 MRK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • January 24, 2005
    ...of false imprisonment "`is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another.'" Rivera v. Double A Transp. Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 31, 727 A.2d 204 (1999) (quoting Felix v. Hall-Brooke Sanitarium, 140 Conn. 496, 499, 101 A.2d 500 (1953))." `A person is not liable for false......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
107 cases
  • Bolmer v. Oliveira, No. 06-cv-235 (JBA).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • August 5, 2008
    ...on the other hand, "`is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another,'" Rivera v. Double A Transp., Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 727 A.2d 204, 209 (1999) (quoting Felix v. Hall-Brooke Sanitarium, 140 Conn. 496, 101 A.2d 500, 502 (1953)), which is done "for the Page 325 of ......
  • Doe v. City of Waterbury, Civil Action No. 3:01cv2298 (SRU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • September 28, 2006
    ..."False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another." Rivera v. Double A Transp., Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 31, 727 A.2d 204 (1999). A person is liable for false imprisonment, if he acts "for the purpose of imposing a confinement, or with knowledge that ......
  • Ward v. Housatonic Area Regional Transit Dist., No. CIV. A. 398CV2467JCH.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • August 3, 2001
    ..."False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another." Rivera v. Double A Transportation, Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 31, 727 A.2d 204 (1999) (quoting Felix v. Hall-Brooke Sanitarium, 140 Conn. 496, 499, 101 A.2d 500 (1953)). False imprisonment falls into t......
  • Lewis v. State of Connecticut Dept. of Corrections, No. 3:02 CV 2304 MRK.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • January 24, 2005
    ...of false imprisonment "`is the unlawful restraint by one person of the physical liberty of another.'" Rivera v. Double A Transp. Inc., 248 Conn. 21, 31, 727 A.2d 204 (1999) (quoting Felix v. Hall-Brooke Sanitarium, 140 Conn. 496, 499, 101 A.2d 500 (1953))." `A person is not liable for false......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT