Robert Lawrence Associates, Inc. v. Del Vecchio

Decision Date19 June 1979
Citation178 Conn. 1,420 A.2d 1142
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
PartiesROBERT LAWRENCE ASSOCIATES, INC. v. Palma DEL VECCHIO et al. ROBERT LAWRENCE ASSOCIATES, INC. v. Helen SCANZILLO et al.

Michael L. Riccio, Bridgeport, with whom was Brian J. Comerford, Bridgeport, for appellants (defendants).

T. Paul Tremont, Bridgeport, with whom, on the brief, was Robert R. Sheldon, Bridgeport, for appellee (plaintiff).

Before COTTER, C. J., and LOISELLE, BOGDANSKI, PETERS and NORRIS L. O'NEILL, JJ.

COTTER, Chief Justice.

In the first case the plaintiff brought suit on May 23, 1973, for damages and for specific performance of an agreement to sell a parcel of land against Palma Del Vecchio and Helen Scanzillo, the owners of approximately 1.85 acres of undeveloped land known as "Parcel 106" on "Assessor's Map No. 3530A" of the town of Trumbull, at times referred to as a triangular parcel of land located on the corner of Gisella Road and Main Street (route 25) in Trumbull. In the second case the plaintiff brought an action on the same date against Helen Scanzillo, John Del Vecchio, Jr., and Carole Ann Del Vecchio, seeking, inter alia, to set aside the conveyances made to them of two building lots designated as lots Nos. 48 and 50, also known as and referred to as lots Nos. 60 and 62; and against Edward Scanzillo and John Del Vecchio, asking, inter alia, for a decree for specific performance of an option agreement executed by them and assigned to the plaintiff in which they agreed to sell the lots upon consummation of the purchase of parcel 106. In the alternative, the plaintiff sought monetary damages.

In the former case, judgment was rendered in favor of the plaintiff for specific performance of the agreement to convey the triangular corner parcel described above with the closing date to be as of April 16, 1973. In the second case it was conceded that specific performance did not lie as to the two lots, and judgment was rendered in favor of the plaintiff to recover money damages of $11,000 plus interest from April 16, 1973, from the defendants John Del Vecchio and Edward Scanzillo only, since the other defendants did not have notice of the option agreement concerning those lots.

I

Upon stipulation of the parties, pursuant to Practice Book, 1963, § 606, the cases were combined for the purpose of appeal and the trial court made one finding of facts consisting of 107 paragraphs. Although the defendants did not request the trial court to include in its finding any specific paragraphs of their draft finding, which were unnumbered and which were not printed in the record, they make a widespread attack on the finding, claiming that it was made without evidence and in conflict with the defendants' evidence; it is ambiguous, misleading, dubious, incomplete and of doubtful meaning; and the court exhibited a prejudicial bias against the defendants and in favor of the plaintiff.

The defendants have failed to pursue in their brief the challenges they have made to six paragraphs of the finding which are treated as abandoned. Katsetos v. Nolan, 170 Conn. 637, 641, 368 A.2d 172; Thomas v. Ganezer, 137 Conn. 415, 423, 78 A.2d 539. The remaining challenged paragraphs of the finding are either directly supported by the evidence printed in the appendix to the plaintiff's brief or based on inferences reasonably drawn from that evidence. Barrett-Nonpareil, Inc. v. Stoll, 168 Conn. 79, 81, 357 A.2d 481. With respect to the preparation of findings of fact, the power to determine facts that have been proven lies with the court as the trier of facts, and the credibility of witnesses must be left to the court. Cappiello v. Haselman, 154 Conn. 490, 492, 227 A.2d 79. The defendants' claim that unsupported facts were erroneously included in the finding is without merit.

As to the defendants' claim that the court erred in failing to find certain evidence, since there is no representation that the defendants specifically requested such facts in their draft finding, and since the evidence cited by the defendants does not establish that they were undisputed or admitted, we are not bound to add those facts as requested. Practice Book, 1978, §§ 3022, 3034; White Oak Excavators, Inc. v. Burns, 172 Conn. 478, 480, 374 A.2d 1097; Dargie v. Hartford, 150 Conn. 261, 263, 188 A.2d 491. Nor have the defendants printed evidence in their brief to support some of those paragraphs; and, as to others, the effect would only be to present a more detailed account of the circumstances without affecting the result. Rushchak v. West Haven, 167 Conn. 564, 566, 356 A.2d 104.

Likewise, the finding cannot be corrected as to evidentiary rulings made by the court since four such claims of error have been abandoned, and the remaining evidential ruling cannot be included in the court's finding since it was not contained in the defendants' draft finding as required by § 3028 of the 1978 Practice Book. Cf. Long v. Loughlin, 171 Conn. 291, 292, 370 A.2d 925. The remaining claims are not material to our disposition of the appeal. Walsh v. Turlick, 164 Conn. 75, 77, 316 A.2d 759.

II

The pertinent subordinate facts as found by the court from conflicting evidence, supported by the appendices where necessary and with such corrections as are warranted, may be summarized as follows: Originally all the parcels involved, as described above had been owned by John Del Vecchio and Edward Scanzillo, experienced businessmen, who had developed real estate holdings. Prior to the middle of 1966 they conveyed the corner parcel to their wives, Palma Del Vecchio and Helen Scanzillo, but continued to manage their wives' business affairs. They retained ownership, however, of the two smaller lots which are the subject of the second suit. In spite of the conveyance to their wives, they nevertheless remained interested in any proposed plans which might have developed concerning the corner parcel.

Harry Gould, president and treasurer of the plaintiff, Robert Lawrence Associates, Inc., became interested in developing property located in the area of Main Street (route 25) and Gisella Road in Trumbull for a shopping center and other commercial and residential uses. The property consisted of adjacent parcels of land owned by different individuals and comprised approximately thirty-seven acres. Gould contemplated putting together the several adjacent parcels and obtaining approximately seventeen acres of that portion of the property fronting in part on Main Street, route 25, rezoned from residential to business-commercial. He contacted the owners of various parcels and discussed purchasing them on an option basis, subject to his ability to change the zone from residential to business-commercial. He purchased one parcel located to the east of the "corner parcel" from Emil Renzulli on November 13, 1967, and transferred it to the plaintiff on the same date, and he also contracted to purchase a thirty-five acre adjacent parcel owned by John Bozogan, subject to his ability to change the zone from residential to business-commercial. The plaintiff, pursuant to that contract, acquired title to that thirty-five acre parcel by deed dated July 2, 1976.

Gould approached the defendant, Edward Scanzillo, and unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate the purchase of the corner parcel containing 1.85 acres which was zoned for one-half acre residential in 1967, and which was adjacent to the other parcels. Originally, that parcel was owned in partnership by the defendants, Edward Scanzillo and John Del Vecchio, who subsequently conveyed that parcel to their wives, the defendants, Helen Scanzillo and Palma Del Vecchio.

Having been unsuccessful in dealing with Scanzillo, Gould employed Honychurch Realtors of Trumbull to act as the plaintiff's agent to acquire both the corner parcel owned by the wives of Scanzillo and Del Vecchio and the two building lots which were owned in partnership by Edward Scanzillo and John Del Vecchio. Edith Stein, a real estate broker employed by Honychurch Realtors, approached Edward Scanzillo in early 1967 regarding the sale of these properties. Scanzillo told her that he would be willing to sell if she could find an interested buyer. Mrs. Stein advised him on February 3, 1967, that she had a buyer for the corner parcel who would pay $45,000. At the time, Scanzillo believed that this was a fair price. That amount was far in excess of the fair market value, approximately $34,000, of the parcel at the time, based on comparable sales, which indicates the importance the plaintiff placed upon that land in the overall development and design of its prospective shopping center.

After the contract for the sale of the corner parcel was typed at the office of Honychurch Realtors, Scanzillo drove Mrs. Stein to New Britain to discuss the contract with John Del Vecchio on the day that the contract and the option agreement were signed and the deals consummated. The contract for the sale of the corner parcel was reviewed with Scanzillo and John Del Vecchio. At the same time a separate option agreement was prepared for the sale of the two building lots owned by them. Edward Scanzillo and John Del Vecchio executed the option agreement in Mrs. Stein's presence. At the time that the option agreement was made out and executed, the clause in the contract for the sale of the corner parcel, parcel 106, which referred to the two building lots, parcels 48 and 50, was scratched or penciled out. 1 That same day, Mrs. Stein and Edward Scanzillo drove to the Del Vecchio home in New Britain, where Palma Del Vecchio signed the contract (Exhibit D) for the sale of the corner parcel after a brief discussion in Mrs. Stein's presence. Scanzillo and Mrs. Stein then drove back to the restaurant in Bridgeport where Helen Scanzillo signed the contract for the sale of the corner parcel. Mrs. Stein was a witness to the signatures of Palma Del Vecchio and Helen Scanzillo.

The typed...

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